Dawgs face potent foe on their home turf
By TJ MAXWELL
The Copperas Cove Bulldawgs will get an opening round rematch with the high-octane Rockwall Yellowjackets in the opening round of the 2015 Texas State High School Football Playoffs.
Cove lost a shootout to the Yellowjackets last year at McLane Stadium and their quest to best the Yellow-jackets may be even harder this year as a new University Interscholastic League (UIL) rule allows the top seed in each district to host the first playoff game. That gives Rockwall the homefield advantage when the two squads face off next Friday.
The Yellowjackets boast a potent offense that averages nearly 59 points per game, led by senior quarterback Will Reed. Reed is 119 for 183 for 2,007 yards and 25 touchdowns as the Rockwall signal-caller while tossing just five interceptions in nine games. Reed has another five scores on the ground on 32 attempts for 193 yards.
Reed lit up the sky in last year’s contest to the tune of 346 yards and four touchdowns on 18 for 24 passing.
Reed’s favorite target is junior wideout Sam Crawford, who has 52 receptions for 1,021 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Senior Caleb Broach is their workhorse on the ground. He has 961 yards and 12 touchdowns on 140 carries and has another 202 yards and three scores on 13 grabs as a receiver.
The Dawgs have their own offensive bag of tricks, highlighted by senior running back Antonio Lealiiee’s 1,449 yards and 13 scores on 166 carries. Junior Kylan Herrera adds another 706 yards and nine scores on 96 carries.
The Dawgs have a strong kick return game as well with two of the top three returners in the district. Shamad Lomax averages 34.3 yards per return for the second best average behind Belton’s Olajuwan Taylor and Herrera is third with 28 yards per return.
The biggest weakness for the Cove offense this year has been the passing game where junior signal-caller Caine Garner has two more interceptions than touchdown passes. Garner and his receiving corps have struggled to find consistency. Whether it be an overthrown ball or the receivers running the wrong routes, nine passes have ended up in opponent’s hands.
Neither team has been stellar defensively, which sets up Friday as another possible 100-plus point shootout.
Like The Bulldawgs, the Yellowjackets went winless through non-district action, but Rockwall reeled off seven straight wins in district to earn the 11-6A crown.
“They’ve stayed with the plan and they’re playing well together,” said Cove head coach Jack Welch.
The Yellowjackets have given up over 30 points per contest this year and have given up at least 27 points in five of their six district contests, with the exception of the 78-0 domination of Garland Naaman Forest.
The Bulldawgs have given up more than 41 points on the season and cut that number to just over 34 per contest in six district tilts.
Those numbers will mean nothing next Friday when the two face off to begin the third season – the playoffs – on Friday. It comes down to who executes better and makes less mistakes.
The Dawgs are coming off one of their worst losses of the year in their season-finale 40-13 loss to the Shoemaker Grey Wolves.
“It’s not fun to lose,” said Welch. “I don’t like to lose and hardly have most of my life so it’s a different thing but it’s fun building the team.”
Welch hopes they can continue building by earning another week with a win over Rockwall.
That loss on senior night left a bad taste in the mouth of some Dawgs as well and they hope to rinse that taste out with a win next Friday.
“I’m happy that we’re in the playoffs but I’m really mad that we lost and I’m going to keep it in mind when we go to the playoffs,” said Lealiiee. “I hope everybody uses it as motivation, especially the seniors because this was the last game at Bulldawg Stadium and we need to take it to Rockwall and do what we’re capable of doing.”
Senior linebacker and back up running back Marcus Brumfield echoed those sentiments.
“I’m using the game to fuel up the defense this week so we can get better results,” he said.
Playoff tickets for the game scheduled for Friday, Nov. 13 at 7:30 p.m. can be purchased at https://ticketracker.com/SelectSection.aspx?eventId=83979.
The Copperas Cove Quarterback Club is setting up a bus for patrons to travel to the game. The bus ticket will come with a sack lunch and drink, as well as a ticket to the game. Prices for the bus trip are $25. For more information on the bus ride, contact Rachel Bryant at 254-457-7521, ext. 3133. Tickets can be purchased at the Copperas Cove athletic annex or at the National Bank at 408 South Main St.