Bulldawgs capitalize on Knights’ mistakes in 21-16 win
By TJ MAXWELL
The Bulldawgs knew they needed to be near perfect when they traveled to Leo Buckley Stadium Friday night to take on the Harker Heights Knights with their playoff hopes on the line.
The offense had their times to shine with the offensive line opening a hole for a 45-yard touchdown run by senior Micah Cox to open a two-score lead in the third quarter, but it was the defense forcing six Knights’ turnovers that was the difference in the game.
“It’s been 103 degrees and all of the sudden its 40 degrees with 22 mile-an-hour winds and a wind chill. I’m not making excuse for my offense or theirs, but it was tough on offense tonight,” said Copperas Cove head football coach and athletic director Jack Alvarez. “I was so proud of our kids. Our defense hit them in the mouth and made it really tough on them and we were able to score enough to win.”
The Bulldawgs converted one of five first-half turnovers into scores to take a 7-2 lead into the halftime break before the sixth Knights’ turnover on the second play of the second half gave the Bulldawgs a short field where they converted five plays later with a two-yard touchdown run by Cox for a 14-2 lead with 9:41 left in the third quarter.
It didn’t take the Knights long to answer as runs of 49 and six by Harker Heights senior running back Andre Gebhardt moved them to the Bulldawgs’ 12-yard line and another Gebhardt run finished the drive with a score for the 14-9 score after the extra point by senior Jamie Garza.
The Bulldawgs showed they have a potent run game as well as Cox broke loose for a 45-yard score to finish a five-play drive that began at the Cove 20 for a 21-9 lead with 6:00 left on the clock.
The Knights came up with a defensive stand of their own when they forced a turnover on downs to halt a 12-play drive at the Knights’ 19 before embarking on a scoring drive of their own.
Sophomore quarterback Terrance Carter scored from one yard out to cap a seven-play drive highlighted by a 60-yard Gebhardt run.
The Knights had one last opportunity as they drove into Bulldawgs’ territory with just over two minutes on the clock but senior Kendal Parker and the Bulldawgs’ defense stopped Carter for a four-yard gain on 4th and 6 with 1:17 left on the clock to seal the win.
“We had a couple times when we weren’t focused enough and that’s when they gained yards,” said Parker. “When we got back focused, that’s when we got it together.”
Neither team could take advantage of the other’s miscues in the first half.
The Knights turned it over five times in the first half, but the Bulldawgs could only convert them to seven points in a half where both teams combined for 119 yards.
The Knights were also unable to take advantage of four turnovers on downs and 1 for 7 third down conversion attempts by the Bulldawgs with a safety on a mishandled snap as their only points of the half.
After losing ground on their first possession, senior punter Cam Ryan was tackled in the end zone for a safety with 10:02 left in the first quarter.
After the ensuing kickoff, Copperas Cove senior Malaich Lyons intercepted the offering of Heights junior quarterback Shaun West and returned it to the Bulldawgs’ 45.
A fumble by Harker Heights’ Gebhardt, forced by Parker and recovered by senior Nathaniel David at the Knights’ 14, set up the only touchdown of the first half.
Sophomore quarterback Shane Richey found junior tight end Russel Cochran for a 14-yard, one-play scoring drive for the 7-2 lead after the Ryan extra point.
A diving interception by Cove senior Jerome Gaillard on the Knights’ next possession at the Knights’ 19-yard line, but the Bulldawgs again were unable to take advantage as they turned it over on downs after to end a nine-play drive.
“We started off on a losing streak and we needed this win to stay in the playoff race,” said Gaillard. “I took a lot of pride in this game and I think we played really good.”
Cox accounted for nearly all of Cove’s 214 yards of offense. He had 34 carries for 195 yards and two scores. Junior Brandon Ortega added 29 yards on 10 carries and Richey had three runs for -4 yards.
Richey was 4 for 7 passing for 20 yards and a touchdown with Cochran making one catch for 14 yards and a score. Senior Jaylin Smith added one catch for six yards.
Gaillard (6.5 tackles, 1 INT) and Parker (6 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 forced fumble) led the Cove defense while senior Nathaniel David had 4.5 tackles, .5 TFL, 1 forced fumble and one fumble recovery).
Gebhardt had 184 yards and a touchdown on 24 rushes to lead the Knights. Carter added seven carries for eight yards and a score while West had three rushes for two yards.
West was 3 for 8 passing for 18 yards with two interceptions and Carter was 4 for 8 passing.
Senior Jaron Millender led the Knights’ receivers with four catches for 26 yards followed by junior LaPrinceton Dixon (1 catch for 16 yards) and sophomore Marcus Maple (1 catch for 12 yards).
Junior Jack Byse (9.5 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack) led the Knights’ defense followed by junior Antonio Morris (6 tackles), senior DeAndre Bowman (6 tackles) and senior Mlachi Robinson (4.5 tackles, 1 TFL).
The Bulldawgs (2-4) need to win out at home against Shoemaker (4-2) on Friday and on the road at the 6-0 Temple Wildcats and get a little help in order to grab one of the two spots up for grabs with five teams in the chase.
“The bottom line is we are going to need some help,” said Alvarez. “If Shoemaker beats these guys - which they can - and we beat Shoemaker, here we are with Temple again. Maybe Midway will put some pressure on some folks and we’ll see how it goes.”