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Bulldawgs find rhythm late in 26-14 loss to Tigers


Cove Leader-Press


BELTON - It was just one of those nights for the Bulldawgs as untimely turnovers, penalties and drops prevented them from garnering any momentum during their 26-14 loss to the Belton Tigers Friday night at Tiger Stadium in Belton.

It didn’t take long for things to go wrong for the Bulldawgs as a fumble on the first play from scrimmage set an ominous tone for Cove fans. Self-inflicted wounds and miscues prevented the Dawgs from hitting on all cylinders most of the night.

“That’s the thing we fought early and we kind of fixed it a little bit lately and it came back tonight,” Copperas Cove head football coach and athletic director Jason Hammett said in his post-game interview. “We moved the ball pretty well in the first half. It was the turnovers that really got us. We moved the ball pretty well in the second half, too, we just had some miscues.”

However, despite two first quarter turnovers by the Bulldawgs, they went into the locker room at halftime in striking range of the Tigers trailing 14-7.

The Tigers added to their lead with the longest drive of the night to open the second half. Belton used runs by senior running back Maurice Reed and passes from senior quarterback Ruben Jimenez to junior wideout Seth Morgan as part of a 15-play, 59-yard scoring drive that chewed up over half of the quarter. A one-yard plunge by Jimenez capped the drive for a 20-7 score with 5:59 left in the third quarter after the missed extra point attempt.

The Tigers then showed their quick strike ability on the next drive after forcing a Cove punt near midfield. A 68-yard touchdown pass from Jimenez to a wide open senior Kanyn Utley for a 68-yard touchdown capped a three-play drive that began at the Tigers’ 19.

The Bulldawgs seemed to find their rhythm on their next possession, but time was not on their side trailing by three scores with 10:54 left in regulation.

Passes from junior quarterback Shane Richey to senior receiver Russel Cochran got the offense moving. Runs by Richey and senior running back Brandon Ortega moved the Bulldawgs into Tigers’ territory at the 44.

“We like to throw the ball but the problem with that is if you throw, you’ve got to have great protection, the right read and the right route,” Hammett said about the team’s emerging passing game. “It takes a lot of factors and it finally started clicking at that point. We had a few things open earlier. We just didn’t hit it.”

A defensive holding call against the Tigers and a 17-yard pass from Richey to senior wide receiver Tyrez Reynolds pushed the Dawgs into the Tigers’ red zone.

A run by Ortega and a 12-yard pass from Richey to Cochran then set up the Dawgs at the two-yard line and Richey punched it in two plays later for the 26-14 score with 6:15 left.

“We’re not just a run team,” Reynolds said about the Bulldawgs’ second-half passing attack. “We can throw the ball, too. We have the potential to be a great team, we’ve just got to keep it going and find what we need to be successful.”

The Bulldawgs got one last opportunity to score after forcing a Belton punt with 3:39 remaining but four-consecutive incompletions closed out their hopes of a comeback win.

“It’s a challenge for these guys, but they’ve got to understand that there is something bigger we’re building,” Hammett said of keeping his players’ spirits up. “Losing heart is the worst thing so I told them, you can’t lose heart. You can’t lose the sense of brotherhood with your team. Moving forward that’s how you have to look at it. How do we want to take the next step?”

The Tigers compiled 452 yards of total offense with 25 first downs on 69 plays. They were over 50% on third and fourth down onversions with 10 for 18 on third and 2 for 4 on fourth.

The Bulldawgs netted 318 yards of total offense at 17 first downs on 51 plays. They were 4 for 11 on third downs conversion attempts and 0 for 2 on fourth down.

The Bulldawgs had three fumbles and lost two of them while the Tigers had the one interception thrown on their first drive of the game.

The Bulldawgs had fewer penalties this game with just 5 for 50 while the Tigers had eight penalties for 65 yards.

Jimenez led the Tigers’ attack with 14 for 21 passing for 230 yards and two touchdowns, along with one interception. Utley was the leading receiver with four catches for 104 yards and a touchdown while Morgan had five catches for 59 yards and junior Bryan Henry had three grabs for 50 yards and a score.

Reed finished with a game-high 145 yards and touchdown on 30 carries while Jimenez added 61 yards and another score on 14 carries.

Senior defensive back Aaron Bain led the Belton defenders with 5.5 tackles, including one for a loss while senior Charles Williams III added five tackles, 1 TFL and senior Joe Sniffin had five tackles. Junior Trent West and senior Bryan Luna each had one fumble recovery.

Ortega led the Bulldawgs’ offense with 134 yards on 19 carries followed by Richey with 12 yards and a score on seven carries.

Richey was 14 for 23 passing for 167 yards and a touchdown and had one fumble.

Reynolds led the receivers with five catches for 67 yards while Cochran had 52 yards and a touchdown on five catches.

Senior Kendall Parker led the Bulldawgs’ defense with 13.5 tackles, including .5 TFL. Senior Isaiah Chisholm added eight tackles and senior Ja’Corian Frazier had 7.5 tackles and an interception.

The game began with turnovers on three consecutive possessions with the Bulldawgs fumbling the ball away twice, setting up the first Tigers’ score of the contest.

After the Bulldawgs had the ball stripped by senior BJ Thompson on the first play from scrimmage, they made up for that mistake when Frazier picked off the pass of Jimenez at the eight-yard line and returned it to the Bulldawgs’ 35.

However, a promising drive on the Bulldawgs’ ensuing possession resulted in the second Cove fumble of the quarter to stall a 13-play drive in the Tigers’ red zone.

The Tigers took advantage of the Bulldawgs’ second turnover of the quarter with a 12-play, 71-yard scoring drive culminating in a seven-yard touchdown run by senior Reed with 40 seconds left in the first quarter.

Runs by Reed and Utley moved the Tigers near midfield and a 26-yard run by Reed moved the Tigers to the Bulldawgs’ 27. Four more Reed runs resulted in the seven-yard score for a 7-0 Belton lead after the extra point by junior Zach White.

After a three-and-out by the Bulldawgs, aided by an offensive holding call, the Tigers added to their lead with a five-play 54-yard scoring drive, culminating in a 27-yard touchdown pass from Jimenez to Henry with 8:20 left in the second quarter.

A 16-yard pass from Jimenez to Utley, along with runs by Reed and Jimenez set up the 27-yard score.

After the Bulldawgs forced a turnover on downs on 4th and 4 at the Cove 10, runs of 21 and 53 yards by Ortega quickly moved the Bulldawgs into Tigers’ territory at the 16 before a short run by Sanders and a 13-yard touchdown pass from Richey to a diving Russel Cochran capped the four-play scoring drive for a 14-7 contest after the Newberry extra point with 1:09 left in the half.

The Bulldawgs (1-4 overall, 0-2 in District 12-6A) will need to shake off these last two weeks with the undefeated Shoemaker Grey Wolves (4-0, 2-0 in 12-6A) coming to town for military night Friday.

“It doesn’t get any easier with Shoemaker but, at the same time, if we play our best, we can play against anybody in this district,” said Hammett. “We just haven’t got it done these last two weeks. The message to the kids is we have to take the next step so we’re not just sitting talking about the what ifs.”

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