Big plays down Bulldawgs in 21-16 loss to Eagles
By TJ MAXWELL
The Copperas Cove Bulldawgs won nearly every aspect of Friday’s homecoming matchup with the Ellison Eagles except where it counts most – the scoreboard.
The Cove defense held the explosive Eagles to just 147 yards of offense and six points in the second half, but that was all the scoring Ellison would need to secure the 21-16 win Friday night at Bulldawg Stadium. The Eagles notched 68 of those yards on the go-ahead scoring drive that gave them the win.
“It was a tough, hard-fought battle,” said Copperas Cove head football coach and athletic director Jack Alvarez after the game. “The quarterback took it on his shoulders down there in the fourth quarter and they got back ahead.
“We’ve been in some good football games; they just haven’t ended up the way I wanted them to.”
The Bulldawgs had 21 first downs to the Eagles’ 12 and 367 total yards of offense to the Eagles’ 307.
“I thought our defense was much improved and I thought we played a good second half,” said Alvarez.
Sophomore quarterback Shane Richey even outdueled the district’s leading passer, senior Breezion Spiller, with 9 for 15 passing for 73 yards to Spiller’s 4 for 13 passing for 63 yards and a score.
“I thought he played well,” Alvarez said of his sophomore signal-caller. “He’s got a little bit of a gimpy ankle, but he worked through that. He made some big throws to help us get down the field right there on that last drive. I can’t ask much more from him. He’s been playing hard, but I’d like to start a little faster.”
The Bulldawgs took advantage of a rare Ellison miscue to start the third quarter. Senior linebacker Nate David stripped the ball from Spiller and senior cornerback Jerome Gaillard jumped on it at the Cove 35.
Five plays later, Cox punches it in from four yards out to bring Cove within a score, 15-10, with 8:04 left in the third quarter. A tough 32-yard run by Cox helped set up the score.
Another defensive stand by the Dawgs forced a punt on 4th and 4 at the Ellison 30 and set up the second-consecutive Cove touchdown for their first lead of the night with 1:13 left in the third quarter.
Cox capped a nine-play scoring drive with a two-yard plunge for the 16-15 lead with 1:13 left in the third after a failed conversion attempt.
“We came out explosive,” Cox said of the Dawgs’ third-quarter burst. “We knew what we had to do to come back. This was pretty much a playoff game for us because we pretty much have to win out for us to go to the playoffs so that was our mentality.”
A series of designed runs by Spiller, including runs of 13, 18 and 21 led to a 16-yard run to pay dirt by Spiller to put the Eagles back on top 21-16 after the conversion attempt by Harris was upended by senior linebacker Kendal Parker.
The Bulldawgs had one last opportunity to snatch victory from the hands of defeat when a 10-play drive moved the Dawgs to the Eagles’ 10-yard line but a play in the backfield by Ellison’s Johnathan Rodriguez on 4th and 6 with 1:21 left ended the Dawgs’ chance at a comeback.
“We got in the same situation we were in last week,” said Alvarez. “Last week, I went for a home run to win the game and I second-guessed myself that I should have went for the first down. So tonight, instead of going for the home run on 4th and 5 or whatever, I decided to try to get the first down. We’ve been getting the yards on the same play all night long and we don’t get it. So, I’m like man, I should have thrown it in the end zone. I put that on me, not the kids.”
Despite the Dawgs outpacing the Eagles by 22 yards of total offense in the first half, it was the big plays that gave the Eagles a 15-3 lead at the break.
Spiller completed just 3 for 11 passes in the half but one of them went for a score.
Harris added another first-half score on six carries for 100 yards.
Ellison struck first on a 36-yard touchdown from Spiller pass to Khalid Mendez with 9:22 left in the first quarter for an 8-0 lead after the two-point conversion run by Spiller.
The Eagles added to their lead with 10:32 left in the second quarter when Harris squirted through the middle into open space for an 80-yard touchdown run.
The Bulldawgs had four punts and a fumble on their first five possessions before putting together a 15-play drive that resulted in a 32-yard field goal by Cameron Ryan with no time left on the clock in the second quarter.
Cox had 139 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries to lead the Cove rushing attack while Delacruz added 127 yards on 20 carries and Richey chipped in 14 yards on five totes.
Senior Jaylin Smith led the Cove wide receivers with seven grabs for 60 yards, followed Cox with one catch for nine yards and senior Jahmeel Rice with one catch for four yards.
Parker led the Copperas Cove defense with six tackles, including two tackles for losses, and a sack. Nathaniel David added five tackles and Gaillard had four.
Harris led the Eagles’ rushing attack with 10 carries for 108 yards and a touchdown while Spiller added 12 carries for 95 yards and a touchdown.
Mendez had the one catch for 36 yards and a touchdown while junior Christopher Uresti had one catch for 15 yards and senior Stacy Brown had two catches for 12 yards.
Senior Johnathan Rodriguez had six tackles, including one for a loss to lead the Eagles’ defense followed by junior Keandre China with six tackles.
The Bulldawgs (1-4, 0-3 in District 12-6A) travels to Waco next Friday to take on the Lions (0-4, 0-2).
“We need to get better at everything, but we played hard and I’m proud of my guys,” said Alvarez. “I thought we started a little slow. We’ve got to work on starting a little faster.”