Cove falls 66-54 in offensive onslaught
By TJ MAXWELL
In a contest between the second-ranked defense in District 12-6A, Copperas Cove, and the top offense in the district in the Midway Panthers, offense came out the winner. The Panthers dropped 45 first-half points on the Bulldawgs on their way to a 66-54 win over the 'Dawgs Friday night at Panther Stadium in Waco.
Both teams combined for 1,276 yards and 120 points on 177 plays in an offensive shootout for the ages. Four Copperas Cove turnovers, three in the first half proved to be the difference in the contest.
“Every play counts, that's what you have to learn from this,” said Copperas Cove head coach Jack Welch. “I thought our kids played every play. I thought the difference in this ball games would be mistakes and the line. Both lines whooped each other. It was back and forth. We had more turnovers and that was the difference in the ball game, but I don't blame our kids because we were playing to win and we had a chance.”
Three first-half interceptions thrown by Copperas Cove's Manny Harris and a potent Midway offense that combined for 357 yards, six touchdowns and a field goal, put the Bulldawgs in 45-21 first-half hole that they were unable to climb out of, despite many second-half chances.
“We started off slow, but we had a great second half,” said Harris. “The offensive line really started picking up in the second half. If we would’ve had more time, who knows what would've happened. We just have to go back to the drawing board and finish off district strong.”
Highly-touted Panther quarterback Ben Hicks lived up to the hype as he threw for 182 yards and three touchdowns on 12-for-17 passing in the first half. Hicks added another rushing touchdown and ball carriers Eric Clayburn and Joseph Ward added a touchdown run each for the Panther's 45 first-half points.
The Bulldawg rushing game that averages 232 yards and 2.6 touchdowns per game was only able to muster 25 yards and no scores in the first half. Canion and the running backs pounded out 200-plus yards and four scores in the second half.
“We just knew we had to come out strong and keep fighting,” said Powell. “I feel the offense did great. They got good blocks and gave Manny enough time to throw the ball and get it to the receivers.”
Harris was 18 for 28 for 183 yards under center in the first half and had three touchdowns to match his three interceptions.
The Bulldawgs outscored the Panthers 33-21 in the second half and had a chance to pull within 12 with 1:01 left in the third quarter but a long run by Trent Canion on 4th-and-4 resulted in a fumble recovered by the Panthers. After a punt from each squad on the ensuing possessions, Midway put the game out of reach with a three-play 50-yard drive to ice the game.
“Stuff like that happens and you never know how the ball's going to bounce,” said Harris. “That was good on their part getting the ball out and making the turnover happen.”
The Bulldawgs got the scoring going early with a six-play 34-yard drive that resulted in an eight-yard touchdown pass to Tre Powell. A 65-yard punt return by Shamad Lomax set up the score.
The Panthers answered with three-consecutive touchdown drives to take a 21-7 lead with 3:22 left in the first period.
The first Midway score came on a six-play, 60-yard drive, culminating in a 21-yard pitch and catch between Hicks and Devontre Strickland.
A Bulldawg punt on the next possession setup Midway with a short field. They took full advantage to score on a three-play, 31-yard score after a penalty on the Bulldawgs gave Midway 1st-and-10 at the Cove 31.
Harris was picked off on the next Cove possession by Midway's Dae-Dae Walker, which set up another three-play scoring drive for the Panthers. An 11-yard touchdown throw to Keith Henson capped the drive.
The Bulldawgs stopped the onslaught and pulled within a score on their next possession. Another big kick return by Lomax, this one for 34 yards, gave the 'Dawgs the ball at their 36-yard line. Four plays later, Harris finds Derris Prater for a 22-yard-touchdown grab.
Midway extended their lead to 10, 24-14 on a 27-yard field goal by Jackson Smith to close out the first quarter scoring.
The Panthers began the second quarter with another scoring drive capped by a six-yard touchdown run by Hicks to increase the Panther lead to 31-14.
Cove again cut into the Panther lead with a scoring drive that resulted in a 27-yard touchdown pass from Harris to Powell with 6:43 remaining in the third.
A pair of passes from back-up quarterback Sam Glaesmann to Strickland for 24 and 16 yards set up a 36-yard touchdown pass from Hicks to Ward.
A 13-play, 78-yard drive, resulted in a one-yard plunge by Clayburn for the 45-21 lead.
Cove had an opportunity to score again before the half but the third Cove turnover of the half halted their chances.
A 47-yard field goal by Jayson Stanley pulled Cove back within 19, 45-26, to start the second half but a 30-yard touchdown run on the ensuing Midway possession doubled Cove's score 52-26.
Cove again cut the Midway lead to 19 with a four-play, 76-yard drive. A 51-yard pass from Harris to Prater set up an 18-yard touchdown scamper by Canion.
After another one-yard plunge by Clayburn pushed Midway's lead back to 26, a 62-yard touchdown run by Canion cut the Midway lead back to 19.
Two fourth-quarter touchdown runs by Jaylen Waters, pulled Cove back to within 12 but the Bulldawgs just ran out of time. The first Waters touchdown came on a six-yard run to cap a 14-play, 90-yard drive with 6:09 left. The final score came on a four-yard run to cap a 13-play, 80-yard drive.
Harris was 32-for-58 passing for 382 yards and three touchdowns for the 'Dawgs. He also had three first-half interceptions.
Canion rushed for 188 yards and two touchdowns to lead all rushers. Waters was six-for-55 for two scores. Powell had 12 catches for 151 yards and two scores and Prater had 11 catches for 146 and two scores.
Waters had 12.5 tackles to led the Bulldawg defense, followed by Shakanah Herrera with six.
Hicks was 16-for-29 passing for 253 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for a score.
Clayburn rushed for 168 yards on 31 carries for two scores. Treston Womack, Korey Chatman, and Ward added touchdown runs.
Josh Turner led the tackling for Midway.
The Bulldawgs finish off their district slate at home against Harker Heights next Friday and on the road at Shoemaker.
“It was a great experience (playing a team like Midway). “It tells where we're weak, where we're strong and what we need to improve on.”