Bulldawgs show resilience in scrimmage with Vipers
By TJ MAXWELL
Bend, but don’t break is a phrase commonly used to describe defensive efforts in sports.
That could aptly describe the Copperas Cove football team’s clash with the offensive juggernaut Vandegrift in Thursday’s scrimmage at Bulldawg Stadium.
The Vipers, who went four deep in the 2020 playoffs and are picked to win District 25-6A, edged the Bulldawgs on the scoreboard – but not by much.
The Vipers a tough defensively as well, surrendering just 13.7 points per game.
In their 12 contests in 2020.
“They are a good team,” said Copperas Cove athletic director and head football coach Jason Hammett. You can tell their kids respond to coaching really well.”
Despite allowing a 32-yard completion on the first play of the scrimmage for Vandegrift’s offense, the Cove defense clamped down and kept the Vipers out of the red zone. Sacks by senior defensive linemen Terrell Tardy and Benjamin Shumaker helped snuff out a pair of Vandegrift possessions.
“On the defensive side, I was really impressed with how we ran to the football,” said Hammett. That was something we worked on last year a lot, may not really have gotten to the point we wanted to last year but this year, Coach Carpenter and the defensive coaches have got them going.
“Most of our mistakes on defense were like, you know misfits, or missed assignment kind of concepts. We missed a couple long passes and obviously we’re trying to get that cleaned up.”
The Bulldawg offense struggled to find their rhythm early on in the scrimmage but seemed to find a bit of a groove in the two timed quarters and red zone offense prior to the timed quarters.
“Some offenses give you fits. It’s kind of like if you’re going to go see Navy or Army run the triple option. Vandegrift is like that on defense, which is a weird concept. They run a defense that we don’t see in any other time of the year. It’s a very attacking defense. So, if you’re if you’re right, you’ll exploit big plays but when you’re not exactly right, they run to the ball as well as anybody and they’re lined up differently than that a lot of people so they’re hard to prepare for.”
It was an ominous start of the scripted scrimmage for the Dawgs as the very first snap sailed over the head of senior signal-caller Shane Richey.
Runs by newcomer senior Bra’Dyn Brooks-Smith, a transfer from Odessa Permian, senior Malcom Roberts and Richey, along with passes from Richey to sophomore Demetrius Pearce and senior Caleb Newberry, highlighted the Dawgs’ first possession in the scripted part of the scrimmage.
Cove backup quarterback Blaine Butler was finding a bit of a grove as the twos took the field. Completions to freshman newcomer Trishstin Glass and senior Gage Royer highlighted the Dawgs’ second possession, but junior Vandegrift linebacker MD Conner undercut the route and picked off Butler to close out the possession.
After a pass breakup by junior Dayne Holden halted the third-consecutive Viper drive with an incompletion, the Vipers drew first blood to close their second possession when junior quarterback Brayden Buchanan found sophomore wide receiver Miles Coleman for a 24-yard touchdown completion and the 6-0 lead.
Several scrambles by Richey looked like they might have went for big gains, but the refs were quick to call the plays dead in an abundance of caution.
After another scoreless possession each, the script changed to running plays from their own three-yard line where the attacking Viper defense held the Bulldawgs in check before breaking loose on a 94-yard run that was stopped short at the Cove three-yard line on a touchdown-saving tackle by senior Jaylen Donnell.
The Bulldawgs knotted the scrimmage up at 6-6 when the script switched to red zone offense from the opponents 10-yard line. A 10-yard pass from Richey to Pearce accounted for the score.
The Vipers answered right back with a pair of scores of their own on passes from Buchanan to seniors Landon Thomason and Graylan Spring to make it an 18-6 Viper advantage to close out the scripted portion.
To start the two 10-minute quarters, passes from Richey to Roberts and junior Craig Brown moved the Bulldawgs into Viper territory at the 46, but that’s where it ended.
Passes from Buchanan to senior Jack Nelson and runs by junior Reece Trevino moved the Vipers into Cove territory at the 35 before Buchanan again finds Coleman for a score and a 7-0 lead in the timed portion after the extra point by junior Hayden Arnold.
A long run by junior Ezekiel Kaleopa-Lynn and a pass from Butler to Donnell got the Dawgs near mid field, but a loss on 3rd and 2 stalled the drive.
The Vipers struck one final time in the scrimmage as back-up quarterback junior Hudson Lilie found sophomore wideout Jase Skoglund wide open at the 20 with no Bulldawgs in sight for the final score of the scrimmage and a 14-0 final score after the extra point by senior Clayton Moore.
“I did see some growth from the offensive line,” said Hammett. “From the beginning where it’s kind of like they’re a little bit lost to the end where they’re understanding and that’s good to know where we can adjust during games.”
The Bulldawgs open the regular season at 7:00 p.m. Thursday night at Round Rock ISD’s Kelley Reeves Stadium against the Stony Point Tigers.