Bulldawgs get ready for annual Blue vs Gold spring game
By TJ MAXWELL
After missing out on the entire spring practice season in his first year after being hired in early May, Copperas Cove head football coach and athletic director Jack Alvarez feels the team is in a good place heading into Friday’s Blue and Gold spring scrimmage.
“We’re progressing,” said Alvarez. “I feel like we have a better chance. How much better we will become will be up to the kids and what happens in the fall.
“As far as having what we want fundamentally, the nuts and bolts of how we move our offense and defense and the kids having an understanding, we are way farther ahead. We still have to go play. That doesn’t automatically get us a ticket to AT&T, but we’ve got a better chance because they have a better understanding of what we want after going through a season and a spring.”
Alvarez and his coaching staff have their work cut at as they return just over 20 players from last year’s 7-4 playoff-qualifying squad and must replace starters in nearly every position.
Brining some much-needed stability to the offensive side of the ball are linemen incoming senior Aaron Shanahan and incoming juniors Thomas Holman and McKenzie Agnello, who helped the Bulldawgs to the no. 1 rushing attack in 2018 that averaged 33.4 points per contest.
Bringing experience to that explosive backfield are returning running backs senior Micah Cox and junior Brandon Ortega. Jahmeel Rice will return at wide receiver for his senior season as will Jaylin Smith. Rice finished tied for 11th with 31 catches for 496 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior. He is expected to make a big impact for the 2019 Bulldawgs.
Incoming juniors Rusty Cochran and Shane Ritchie are battling to see who replaces quarterback Easton Simpson under center.
Defensively, Nate David will return for his senior season to lead the linebacking corps while Jerome Gaillard with lead the defensive backs in his senior season and Zachary Hoyle will lead the defensive line. David had a second-best two interceptions and was second in tackles with 39.5 in 2018.
Senior kicker Cam Ryan will return to bring some stability to the kicking game. Ryan made 39 of his 42 extra point attempts in 2018.
Having a full off season has also helped create that team bond despite replacing 39 graduating seniors, says Alvarez.
“I think the offseason has helped tremendously with the expectations of working together and pulling together, not allowing a bad day and learning how to pick your teammates up,” he said. “I think we’ve come along as far as that goes. There’s not as many individuals as we probably had last year, but I think we have a better overall team as far as being good teammates.”
Alvarez knows there is a lot to get streamlined between now and opening day in September.
“Everything is concerning,” he said. “We’ve worked on how we line up, how we load the bars, how we clean up the locker room – everything little thing matters. Every little thing is concerning to me. From the D-line to the O-line, to depth and what can happen over the summer. Everything is concerning but I’m not worried. I think we’re going to be okay in every position and I think we’ll be very competitive.”
Alvarez will know a lot more about his team after Friday evening’s scrimmage.
“The number one thing I want to see is some physicality,” said Alvarez. I don’t want anybody to get hurt but I want us to be physical, I want us to play fast and I want us to make plays on both sides of the ball. If we get 50 or 60 plays on film that’s fast, I’ll be happy. I just want to see us play fast and see both sides of the ball have some success.”
The junior varsity scrimmage will go from 5-6 p.m. and the varsity will go from 6-7 p.m.
The Bulldawgs begin their 7 on 7 Monday, June 3 at Georgetown East View. Cove will take on Cameron Yoe in game one at 7 p.m. and East View in game two at 7:40 p.m. The JV/freshman will play at 5:30 p.m. and 6:10 p.m.
Cove will travel to Cedar Ridge for week two with games against Cedar Ridge and Stony Point. The Bulldawgs’ lone state qualifier tournament is scheduled for Friday June 14th at the Austin Westlake State Qualifier before rounding out the league play schedule at Belton on June 17 and at Round Rock on June 24.