CCLP/STEVEN DOLL - Cove senior defensive tackle James Vernardos sacks Garland Sachse quarterback Jalen Mayden during the Dawgs’ 48-16 loss. The Dawgs’ defense will need to slow down the Midway Panthers’ powerful offense to come away wth a win.

Dawgs face revamped Panthers’ squad tonight

Cove Leader-Press
The Copperas Cove Bulldawgs face a talented, but revamped, Midway Panthers’ squad tonight in Waco to open District 8-6A play.
“This is our first ball game,” said head coach Jack Welch during the weekly quarterback club meeting on Wednesday. “It’s a new season. It all starts right now.”
The Dawgs (2-1) are coming off a tough loss to a stacked Garland Sachse squad while the Panthers (2-2) rebounded from back-to-back losses to open the season to state-ranked squads in Cedar Park and Round Rock Cedar Ridge before knocking off Top 10 Temple and Waco High to even their non-district mark under first-year head coach Jeff Hulme.
“Midway is a good ball club,” said Welch. “They can get real explosive offensively. They haven’t shown scoring lots of points so far but they’ve only had their quarterback one game. They’ve got a good running back, good receivers, a good offensive line and a good quarterback.”
Junior quarterback Tanner Mordecai will lead the Panthers’ offense after missing three of the four non-district games with an injury. He was 14 of 23 for 95 yards in his return against Waco High last week. Senior Josh Owen was 45 for 89 for a touchdown and seven interceptions in relief for Mordecai. He also had 23 carries for 56 yards and a score.
“We’ve got to penetrate and put pressure on that quarterback,” said Welch. “I think we’ve improved in that area.”
Junior running back Malik Collins leads the Panther ground attack with 165 yards and two touchdowns on 46 carries. Sophomore James Fullbright follows with 121 yards and two scores on 29 carries in three games. Eight different players have had touches in the run game.
The Panthers have some threats at receiver as well with seniors D’Unte Brown and Ger’Markee Satterwhite, along with junior Clayton Williams, leading the way. Brown has 176 yards and a score on 21 receptions while Satterwhite and Williams have just over 100 yards each on six and nine catches, respectively. 10 different receivers have been targeted this year.
“We’ve got to make sure we’re solid in the middle and we have to keep them in front of us,” said Welch. “We’ve got to make sure we don’t have any busts. We can’t let the receiver run uncovered.”
Mordecai and the rest of the skill players have a beefy offensive line for the skill players to operate behind.
“Their offensive line is big,” said Reb Brock, Cove defensive coordinator. “Both guards are 300 pounds, the left tackle is 285 and the right tackle is 275. If they do have weakness, a couple of them their feet aren’t great.”
The Panthers pose a hefty run threat but also operate well on play-action.
“They like two-back sets and will run and pass out of it,” said Brock. “Because they are so affective at running the football, it opens up the playaction pass.”
Leading the Panthers’ defense is speedy big man Jaxon Player. He has a team-high in both tackles with 34, tackles for losses with nine and sacks with two. Player spends a lot of time in opponents’ backfields.
“He was the Newcomer of the Year in district last year,” said Tracy Welch, Cove offensive coordinator and associate head coach. “He plays hard and plays aggressive. He makes things happen and helps the secondary out a lot.”
Senior Leondrae Robinson leads the Panthers’ secondary. The free safety that doubles as running back leads the defense in turnovers with three interceptions.
“He is the pre-season district MVP,” said Tracy Welch.
Despite the lopsided loss against Sachse last week, the Dawgs have held opponents to just 24 points and 362 yards per game with improved defensive play. They have also surrendered just 15 plays of 20 yards or more while connecting on 23 plays of 20 yards or more.
The Dawgs trail in turnover differential at -3 and Welch feels that’s where the defense needs the most improvement. Cove has three takeaways on fumbles but has given up four and two interceptions.
“I think you’ll see some picks and some turnovers,” said Jack Welch. “That’s what we’re going for.”
The Dawgs have three rushers with at least 100 yards and two scores with senior Jaylon Hannah leading the way with 216 yards and three scores on 16 attempts. Junior Tim Edwards adds 134 yards and three scores on 30 carries and senior quarterback/running back Caine Garner has 129 yards and two scores on 28 attempts.
Garner also leads a two-quarterback backfield with 410 yards and three touchdowns on 35 of 56 passing with junior Jaylen Smith following with 197 yards on 18 of 31 passing.
Four receivers have eclipsed the 100-yard mark, led by senior Josh Canete’s 189 yards and two scores on 17 grabs. Floyd Connell adds 122 yards on 10 catches while Gabe Williams adds 103 yards and a score on seven grabs and Kendall Small has 102 yards on 12 catches. Canete leads the Dawgs in all-purpose yards with 321.


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