Cove needs win tonight or Killeen loss for playoff berth
By TJ MAXWELL
The Copperas Cove Bulldawgs have their playoff future in their own hands as they can clinch a playoff berth with a win tonight over the Temple Wildcats in the regular-season finale.
The Dawgs (6-3, 4-3 in District 12-6A) needed everything to fall just right to give themselves a chance at a playoff berth and the blocks began to fall in place Thursday in a 41-35 road win over the Shoemaker Grey Wolves at Leo Buckley Stadium.
“I am proud of the kids,” Copperas Cove head football coach and athletic director Jack Alvarez said about his team’s fight after their win over Shoemaker that set up the playoff opportunity. “They played their butts of and put us in the position to play Temple in a game that gives us a shot at the playoffs.
“The next game is the biggest one we’ve got so they need to enjoy this win and get ready to go next week.”
Another piece was added to the puzzle when Ellison bested Killeen 30-20 Friday at Buckley Stadium to set up a two-horse race for the final playoff spot between the Bulldawgs and the Killeen Kangaroos with the Dawgs hosting the Wildcats and the Kangaroos traveling to Waco.
There is a scenario where Copperas Cove could lose to Temple and still clinch the final spot. Should the Roos lose to the Lions in Waco on Friday, Cove would have the head-to-head advantage over Ellison (4-4) and Killeen would be out of the running with five losses.
That scenario is a far-fetched one as the Lions have just one win on the season and are 0-7 in District 12-6A action with just 71 points scored in those seven district games while surrendering 358 points in that same span.
The Dawgs task is a daunting one as the Wildcats come to town with the district’s top-rated offense and third-ranked defense.
The Wildcats (8-1 overall, 6-1 in 12-6A) average 489.4 yards of total offense and 43.3 points per contest in nine games while surrendering just 275.2 yards and 18 points on defense.
The Wildcats have a well-balanced offense with three players in the Top 15 rushers, led by junior Anthony Jackson’s 938 yards and 12 touchdowns on 91 carries in fourth place. Senior De’Jon Overton adds 773 yards and 13 scores on 123 carries for sixth place and senior Josh Murrell comes in at 14 with 60 rushes for 341 yards and a touchdown.
Senior Jared Wiley is third in passing with 118 for 198 for 1,914 yards and 24 touchdowns with just five interceptions to lead the Wildcats’ offensive attack.
Junior Quentin Johnston leads the Temple receiver corps with 36 catches for 772 yards and 13 touchdowns while junior Montavian Carlyse has 31 catches for 484 yards and five scores.
The Temple defense has taken the ball away from their opponents 13 times, including six fumble recoveries and seven interceptions, led by senior Monto President’s three picks.
The Wildcats have fumbled the ball away 10 times.
The Dawgs, however, have the district’s top-rated defense and the fourth-ranked offense in total yards.
Cove surrenders just 250.7 yards per contest with Killeen just edging out Temple for second with 275 yards per outing.
Cove has 20 takeaways with nine recovered fumbles and 11 interceptions, led by senior Tommy Connell’s four interceptions.
Cove has fumbled the ball away a district-high 14 times.
Cove senior Shontez Simmons is the district’s top running back with 1,288 yards and 13 touchdowns on 137 carries while junior Micah Cox comes in at eighth in district with 722 yards and seven touchdowns on 107 carries.
Senior signal-caller Easton Simpson is fourth in passing with 108 for 178 for 1,498 yards and 18 touchdowns while throwing just five interceptions.
Senior two-way player Quinton Lewis leads the Cove receivers with 37 catches for 526 yards and seven scores.
The winner of the Temple/Copperas Cove matchup will likely travel to Longview to take on the Lobos in the opening round of the playoffs.
There is an underlying storyline is this contest as well. Should Temple lose to Copperas Cove and Belton defeat Midway, the Wildcats would host either Mesquite Horn or Tyler Lee from District 11-6A instead of traveling Longview to face the Lobos who’ve won 13-straight games at Lobo Stadium.
Junior defensive back Jerome Galliard, who had the game-ending interceptions in the Dawgs’ 41-25 win over Shoemaker, thinks his squad has a shot tonight.
“We just need to stay solid, remain focused and practice hard,” he said.