Bulldawgs still alive in playoff hunt
By TJ MAXWELL
The playoffs came early for the Copperas Cove Bulldawgs football team.
The Bulldawgs are in a playoff-like win or go home scenario as they must sweep Shoemaker this Friday and Temple next Friday to have any shot at the playoffs and they are going to need some help as well.
The Dawgs took care of the first step of the long journey that would get them in the postseason on Friday in Killeen when they downed the Harker Heights Knights in a 21-16 contest at Leo Buckley Stadium.
“I was so proud of our kids,” said Copperas Cove head football coach and athletic director Jack Alvarez. “Our defense hit them in the mouth and made it really tough on them and we were able to score enough to win.”
On a cold and blustery Friday night, the Bulldawgs took advantage of six Knights turnovers and employed a solid ground game, led by senior running back Micah Cox, to upend the Knights that were coming off a huge upset over Midway that stopped a 38-game district winning streak by the Panthers.
The Bulldawgs only managed 214 yards of total offense and 21 points, but that is all they would need as the defense came up big, forcing six Harker Heights turnovers that resulted in 14 of the Dawgs’ 21 points.
Senior Malachi Lyons got the first turnover for the Dawgs defense when he undercut the throw of junior quarterback Shaun West on the Knights’ first possession after taking a 2-0 lead on a safety on the Dawgs’ first possession.
Senior linebacker Marquis Brooks forced the first of four fumbles and senior defensive back Christian Tuiasosopo recovered it at the Harker Heights 40.
Another forced fumble by senior linebacker Kendal Parker, recovered by senior linebacker Nathaniel David at the Harker Heights 14-yard line, set up the first touchdown for the Dawgs on a 14-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Shane Richey to junior tight end Russel Cochran with 9:09 left in the second quarter.
Senior Jerome Gaillard then got in on the turnover fun with a diving interception of West’s offering at the Dawgs’ 41-yard line with 8:20 left in the half.
Senior Christian Eseroma forced another fumble on a sack fumble but West was able to get back on it with 3:34 left in the half, but another fumble forced by David, recovered by junior Branden Jackson, halted another Knights drive just before the halftime break.
Just 22 seconds of game clock separated another Knights turnover as new quarterback Terrance Carter had the snap bounce off his chest and into the arms of Brooks at the Knights’ 18. Five-straight runs by Cox put the Dawgs into the end zone for a 14-2 lead.
Harker Heights senior running back Andre Gebhardt then got his offense on the board with runs of 49, 6 and a 12-yard scoring run.
The Bulldawgs returned the favor with a 45-yard scoring run by Cox with 6:00 left in the third quarter for a 21-9 Cove lead. Run by Cox and junior running back Brandon Ortega, along with a pass from Richey to senior Jaylin Smith, set up the score.
After forcing a turnover on downs to start the fourth quarter, the Knights pulled within a score with a one-yard touchdown run by Carter with 8:06 remaining.
A successful onside kick by the Knights gave them another opportunity but a field goal attempt by senior Jamie Vargas sailed wide left to keep it a five-point Cove lead.
The Knights had one last opportunity to take the lead but a stop on 4th and 6 from the Dawgs’ 38 by Parker secured the win for Cove.
Cox finished with 195 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries to retake the rushing title from Midway’s Will Nixon. Cox now has 1,333 yards and 15 touchdowns on 186 total carries with Nixon close behind with 1,131 yards and 19 touchdowns on 163 carries. Cox has 1,761 all-purpose yards to lead the Dawgs.
The Dawgs host the Shoemaker Grey Wolves (4-2) this Friday in another must-win scenario. The Dawgs also need Belton (3-3) to lose at Waco (0-6) as the Tigers own the tiebreaker over the Bulldawgs by virtue of their 62-40 win to open 12-6A play. The Dawgs will then need to go to Temple (6-0) for the season finale and pull off their biggest win of the season and hope for a Shoemaker win over Heights to squeeze into that final spot.
“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.”