Copperas Cove RB Delacruz returns with a bang
By TJ MAXWELL
A little over a year ago, Copperas Cove running back Elijah Delacruz, was writhing on the ground in pain after suffering a season-ending leg injury.
Even more painful was having to watch his teammates play without him as he rehabbed the injury.
Delacruz made up for it in grand fashion in the season opener and his first meaningful varsity game with 80 yards and a touchdown on 12 rushes to go with an 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a 41-yard pass that set up the opening Bulldawg touchdown in Friday night’s 41-38 loss in the season opener against the Burleson Elks.
“It felt good to get back out there and play with my team and the boys that I miss,” said Delacruz after the game. “I had to work through adversity, and I did. I got back to the team, we came out here and fought hard.”
Delacruz made his presence known early as the 41-yard pass set up a five-yard touchdown by senior running back Micah Cox on the Bulldawgs’ second possession for a 7-0 Cove lead.
On his next touch, he returned a kickoff 40 yards to help set up the Bulldawgs’ second score of the night on their fourth possession. A two-yard run by junior quarterback Russel Cochran capped the drive.
After helping the Dawgs drive down for a field goal to take a 17-7 lead with 6:38 left in the half, Delacruz broke loose on the 89-yard touchdown to give the Bulldawgs a 24-14 lead at the halftime break.
“I give that all to the kick return team,” said Delacruz. “They put their blocks down and I followed them. They opened a hole for me, and I took it.”
Copperas Cove athletic director and head football coach Jack Alvarez is glad to have De la Cruz back in the fold and knows he will help the team get better.
“I’m excited for (Delacruz),” said Alvarez. “There are going to be a lot more nights this year and the Dawgs are going to win some games. I don’t know what our fate in the end is, but I know the teams that I’ve coached, we usually get a lot better as we go.”
Despite his small stature, Delacruz plays like he’s six feet tall. At times on Friday, he was dragging defenders twice his size for extra yardage.
“I’m being told all the time that I’m too small, so I come out here with a chip on my shoulder to prove them wrong,” said Delacruz. “The offensive line helped me a lot with that today, so I appreciate it.”
He finished as the top returner of punts and kickoffs in week one. He had one punt for 17 yards to lead the stat and had three kickoff returns for 146 yards and a touchdown to lead that category. He was also seventh in district rushing with teammate Cox at fourth with 149 yards on 18 carries.
Delacruz and the Bulldawgs will get one last dress rehearsal when the Manor Mustangs come to town on Friday before the District 12-6A race begins in earnest with the Belton Tigers coming to town for the district opener at Bulldawg Stadium next Friday.
Despite losing the season opener, Delacruz and the Bulldawgs gave fans some exciting moments. Alvarez doesn’t like losing, but if you are going to lose, losing early in the way to go.
“It is what it is,” he said. “I hate that phrase, but it’s better to find out about us right now, than the first district ballgame. That’s what’s good about playing better people early. You find out about yourself and the adjustments you’ve got to make.”
The staff is making those adjustments as they prepare for Manor on Friday.
“Manor is always talented so it’s going to be a challenge,” said Alvarez. “We’ll strap it back on and go to work.”