Big plays by Wildcats cost Bulldawgs in 55-21 loss
By TJ MAXWELL
The explosive Temple offense scored 24 unanswered points to open each half and Copperas Cove was unable to return fire in their 55-21 loss to the Wildcats in the District 12-6A opener Friday night at Bulldawg Stadium.
Despite a pair of interceptions of Temple senior quarterback Humberto Arizmendi and long returns, including one for a pick six, the Bulldawgs found themselves trailing 31-21 coming into the second half.
“We had plenty of times when opportunities were in front of us,” said Copperas Cove head football coach and athletic director Jason Hammett in his post-game interview. “I was really proud of our defense, especially our two corners.”
“Those guys (senior Isaiah Chisolm and junior Tyrese Carter) fought their tails off competing in the secondary,” added Hammett. “They got those two picks and returned them. Those guys are just great players and great practice players and that’s really where we’ve got to get better. The reps in practice, we’ve got to translate them over to the field.”
To add to their troubles, they were coming back without starting quarterback junior Shane Richey after a sandwich tackle sent him to the sideline with an injury with 2:10 left in the first half.
The Wildcats took the opening kickoff of the second half and never looked back, outscoring the Bulldawgs 24-0 to secure the victory and move to 3-1 overall, 1-0 in District 12-6A play.
It took the Wildcats just four plays and 1:28 off the clock to increase their lead to 17, 38-21, on their third scoring play of at least 24 yards of the five big scoring plays on the night. A 41-yard touchdown pass from Arizmendi to sophomore Mikal Harrison-Pilot capped the drive that began at the Temple 44.
A pair of punts by the Bulldawgs and a defensive stop by the Bulldawgs to halt a 15-play Temple drive closed out the third quarter with Temple out front 38-21.
The Wildcats added three more points on a field goal by senior Aaron Wagaman to cap a seven-play, 75-yard drive to close the third and open the fourth quarters after a touchdown pass to McDuffy was swatted away by Chisolm.
“My raw athletic talent I’m blessed with came in handy for that play,” said Chisolm who leaped high for the pass breakup in the end zone.
After a defensive stop on 4th and 5 from the Bulldawgs’ 40, it took Temple just two plays to increase their lead to 27, 48-21. An eight-yard run by junior running back Samari Howard was followed up by a 28-yard scoring run by Howard and extra point by Wagaman with 8:28 left in the contest.
Another turnover on downs by Copperas Cove on 4th and 9 at the Temple 48 set up the final big scoring play of the night for the Wildcats as senior running back Bryce Langrum escaped for a 52-yard score on the first play from scrimmage for the final score of 55-21 after the Wagaman extra point.
The Wildcats finished with 536 total yards of offense and 23 first downs on 61 plays while the Bulldawgs had 181 yards and nine first downs on 55 plays.
Temple also won on third down conversions with 6 of 10 (60 percent) while Cove was 4 for 15 (26.7 percent) on third down and 2 for 6 on fourth.
Temple had six penalties for 55 yards and Copperas Cove had five for 50.
Howard led the Wildcats with 183 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries and added another 39 yards on five catches. Langrum added 75 yards and a touchdown on six carries and Arizmendi had seven carries for 71 yards.
Arizmendi was 11 for 19 passing for 169 yards and three touchdowns, along with two interceptions. Senior wideout McDuffy caught three of those passes for 82 yards and a score and sophomore Mikal Harrison-Pilot added three catches for 48 yards and a score.
Junior defenders Eric Shorter and Marshall Grays led the Temple defense in tackles with six and five, respectively, while senior Jayven Taylor had 4.5 tackles, including two for losses, and a sack.
Senior Brandon Ortega finished with nine carries for 64 yards and had two catches for 25 yards and a touchdown to lead the Bulldawgs’ offense. Richey had nine carries for 23 yards and a touchdown along with 5 for 8 passing for 18 yards before leaving the game with an injury with 2:10 left in the first half.
Senior Russel Cochran was 3 for 12 passing for 55 yards and a touchdown in relief for Richey. He also had two catches for five yards. Senior Tyrez Reynolds led the Bulldawg receivers with three catches for 42 yards.
Senior linebacker Kendal Parker had a game-high eight tackles to lead the Bulldawgs while senior Isaiah Chisolm had 4.5 tackles, including one for a loss, a sack, and an interception. Senior Tyrese Carter had an interception returned for a touchdown along with a pair of tackles.
It didn’t take the Wildcats long to open a substantial lead in the first quarter against the Bulldawgs.
A muffed kickoff return pinned the Bulldawgs deep in their own territory and a 44-yard punt return by junior Tr’Darius Taylor set up a short field for the Wildcats. A pass from Arizmendi to Howard moved the Cats inside the 10 and a seven-yard touchdown run by Howard made it an 8-0 contest after the conversion run by Howard with 9:20 left in the first quarter.
The Wildcats added another touchdown after another Bulldawgs’ punt gave the Wildcats the ball at their own 44, A 28-yard pass from Arizmendi to Howard started the four-play drive and a 46-yard touchdown pass from Arizmendi to McDuffy closed the drive for a 16-0 Temple lead after the conversion run by Howard.
A hard hit on Copperas Cove senior Justin Raines on the ensuing kickoff jarred the ball loose and ended up in the hands of sophomore defender Zion Moore at the Bulldawgs’ 31. A quarterback keeper on a Wildcat run by Harrison-Pilot moved Temple to the three and Howard finished the drive with a one-yard touchdown run for the 24-0 lead after the conversion run with 2:59 left in the first quarter.
The Bulldawgs’ defense then made an impact with an interception of a tipped ball returned 71 yards to set up a 1st and goal from the one.
“The coaches get us prepared for that all week,” said Chisolm about the interception returned 62 yards. “It’s really just a part of the game plan for me to get involved.”
Three plays later Richey dove in from two yards out for the score for a 24-7 contest with 9:56 left in the first half.
After punts by both teams, junior Tyrese Carter jumped the route of the Temple receiver and took the pass of Arizmendi 90 yards for a touchdown and 24-14 score with 5:27 left in the half.
“It felt good,” said Carter about his second touchdown in as many games. “Coach Stevenson prepared me well, I listened to him and the results came out well. The team had my back, the (defensive) line blocked perfect and I got the pick. I read it well and it was all flying colors from there.”
A dead ball foul pushed Copperas Cove back on the ensuing kickoff and the Wildcats made them pay with a short field that resulted in a seven-play scoring drive culminating in a 24-yard touchdown pass from Arizmendi to McDuffy for a 31-14 score.
A big hit on Richey after a short run forced a change at quarterback before a 25-yard pass from Cochran to Reynolds moved Cove to the Temple 23 and a 23-yard pass from Cochran to Ortega for the score made it 31-21 with 16 seconds left in the first half.
The Bulldawgs (1-3 overall, 0-1 in District 12-6A) return to action on the road at Belton this Friday against the Tigers (1-3, 1-0). The Tigers are coming off a 33-26 win over Killeen on Thursday.
“We just need to go back, work harder than we did this week and keep pushing forward,” center Ryan Connor said about Friday’s road match against the Tigers.
Junior tackle Rictavius Moore echoed those thoughts.
“We’re going to watch the film, see what they do, learn it, and get better,” he said.