Big plays, turnovers cost Dawgs in 42-20 loss to Panthers
By TJ MAXWELL
Despite two costly turnovers to start the game for the Bulldawgs, they were locked in a back-and-forth battle with the district-leading Panthers in the first half, but 28 unanswered points by the Panthers to close the first half and open the second half proved to be too much for Copperas Cove in their 42-20 loss to Midway Friday night at Bulldawg Stadium.
“Scores really don’t matter,” Copperas Cove head football coach and athletic director Jack Alvarez said after the loss. “It’s a win or a loss and we took a loss tonight.
“I’m proud of my guys. I thought they played really hard. I thought we had a great game plan on both sides, and I thought we executed it for the most part. They are a good football team. I’m not taking anything away from them at all, but we just had too many critical errors at the wrong time. I put that back on me. I somehow or other have to get that fixed.”
A 21-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Jared Moore to senior running back Will Nixon to break a 14-14 tie with 1:27 left in the first half.
The Panthers then took advantage of a bad snap for a 26-yard loss on 4th and 10 from the Midway 26.
Four plays later, Nixon scored his third total touchdown on the night with a three-yard plunge for a 28-14 lead with 4:28 left in the third quarter.
The Dawgs answered with a long, 13-play drive - aided by a roughing the passer call, but a turnover on downs on 4th and 11 at the Panthers’ 19 ended the opportunity.
The Panthers then milked over five minutes off the clock on a 15-play, 81-yard scoring drive with a one-yard Moore run finishing the drive and gave the Panthers a 35-14 lead with 5:09 remaining in regulation.
Backup quarterback junior Tyler Webb added another score on a 29-yard pass to senior Xavier Harris for the final Panthers’ score and a 42-14 lead with 2:58 left in regulation.
“Hats off to our defense,” said Alvarez. “I know they gave up some points at the end of the game, but it was Hail Mary time and we were trying whatever we could. Our secondary has gotten tremendously better with all the woes we had back there. The defensive line has had some injuries, but I thought those guys played really good too.”
Cove pulled within three scores when senior Micah Cox took the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown with 2:41 left in the game.
An onside kick was recovered by Cox at the Panthers’ 48 to give the Bulldawgs one last chance but a sack fumble by Midway senior linebacker JB Brown ended Cove’s drive.
Cox finished with 313 all-purpose yards, including 26 carries for 156 yards to lead the Cove rushing attack. Senior Elijah Delacruz finished with 55 yards on three carries before leaving the game with an injury in the first quarter.
Richey was 9 for 20 for 66 yards and a touchdown with Smith catching four of them for 57 yards and a score. Senior Jahmeel Rice added two catches for 12 yards.
The Bulldawgs converted just two of 11 third down attempts and were 1 for 5 on 4th down.
Senior linebacker Kendal Parker led the Bulldawgs’ defense with seven tackles, including one for a loss and a pass breakup. Senior linebacker Nathaniel David added 6.5 tackles and senior defensive back Jerome Gaillard added five tackles.
The Panthers were led by Moore’s 11 for 25 passing for two touchdowns along with 12 carries for 35 yards and another score.
Nixon added two rushing touchdowns on 13 carries for 111 yards and added another score on one catch for 21 yards.
Stewart finished with four catches for 100 yards and a score to lead Midway’s receivers. Harris added four catches for 61 yards and a score.
Sophomore Zacobie Haverly led the Panthers’ defense with seven tackles despite leaving the game early with an injury. Junior Reid Cromie added five tackles and Brown had 4.5 tackles, including three for losses and the sack fumble.
The two first-quarter turnovers could have doomed the Copperas Cove Bulldawgs against the explosive Midway Panthers, but a strong defensive effort helped the Bulldawgs stay in the fight and a pair of touchdowns from sophomore quarterback Shane Richey made it a one score game, 21-14, at the halftime break.
Cove opened with a promising drive that took them from their own 22 to the Midway 16 before a bad handle of the snap bounced into the hands of Midway senior linebacker Braden Straus for one of three costly Cove turnovers in the game.
The Panthers capitalized on the turnover with a 14-play, 82-yard scoring drive with a four-yard touchdown run by Nixon finishing the drive.
The Bulldawgs put together a long scoring drive of the own to close the first quarter and open the second. A one-yard touchdown plunge by Richey capped a 12-play drive that began at the Cove 30.
It took the Panthers just 1:20 of game clock to answer when Moore found Stewart for a 14-yard touchdown pass to finish a five-play scoring drive that began at the Cove 48 after the onside kick attempt.
After a punt to the one-yard line by Cove senior Cam Ryan pinned the Panthers deep in their own territory, a Midway punt flipped the field and set up the Dawgs at the Panthers’ 35. Two plays later, Richey found senior wide receiver Jaylin Smith for a 30-yard touchdown pass and a 14-14 score after the Ryan extra-point.
The Panthers again answered with a quick scoring drive that took just over a minute.
A 50-yard pass from Moore to Stewart moved the Panthers from their own 29 to the Bulldawgs’ 21 before a pass from Moore to Nixon down the right side gave Midway the 21-14 lead with 1:27 left in the half.
The Bulldawgs aren’t mathematically eliminated just yet but they would have to win out and hope for some help with Shoemaker (2-1), Harker Heights (3-2), Ellison (2-2), Belton (2-2) and Killeen (1-4) all vying for the final two spots behind Midway (4-0) and Temple (4-0). They have two weeks to prepare for Harker Heights at Leo Buckley Stadium and they finish at home against Shoemaker and at Temple.
“I think any time you have a chance to play, that should be enough motivation,” said Alvarez. I’m a competitive person. Whether it’s checkers, gin rummy or whatever, I’m fixing to do everything I can to win and hopefully that has bled off on these guys. They are trying to win. We’re trying really hard. Hopefully they’ve got some courage and they want to keep playing.”