A glance at some of the athletic accomplishments of current and former Bulldawgs
By TJ MAXWELL
It was a topsy-turvy 2017 for Copperas Cove athletics with wild losses, come-from-behind wins and record-setting performances.
Some Copperas Cove athletes etched their names into the high school record books while others added their names to the prestigious list of state finalists and medal winners.
In today’s edition of the Copperas Cove Leader-Press, we take a look back at some of the top sports stories of 2017.
Soaring to Silver
AUSTIN - If Copperas Cove track and field standout Josh Canete’s senior season had a title, it would likely be ‘Redemption’ as the senior overcame setback after setback on his way to win a silver medal in the high jump on May 13 at the UIL State Track and Field Championships at the University of Texas’ Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin.
“It feels good,” Canete said of his silver medal finish. “There’s no doubt about that. “It actually feels real good to know that you are second place and second best in the state. It’s a pretty big accomplishment.”
Canete came into the State Championships with the sixth best height despite winning gold at the blustery Region I-6A Meet in Arlington.
He also had the confidence of knowing he has jumped high enough to compete with the top guys in the state at some point throughout the year and just needed to perform when it mattered and he did just that.
“I came out feeling good,” he said. “I practiced really hard all week and it just came naturally.”
As just one of three athletes to clear the 6-feet-6 mark, Canete leaped over the 6-feet-8 mark on his first attempt after watching Jack Scarborough of San Antonio Johnson, who came in with the top mark of 6-feet-10, miss his first attempt to assure at least a silver medal if they couldn’t clear the next height.
“First attempts are crucial,” said Canete. “It just came to me that I had to get that jump and I did it.”
Scarborough also cleared the 6-feet-8 mark on his third attempt to secure the bronze.
Corbin Mason of Katy Tompkins cleared the 6-feet-9 mark to earn the gold medal before adding icing on the cake with a personal best leap of 6-feet-11 to end the contest.
LAS VEGAS - After a disappointing year with cancelled fights, injuries and life getting in the way; former Copperas Cove Bulldawg Geoffrey Neal (class of 2008) reached the pinnacle of his mixed martial arts career by knocking out two opponents in 12 days to earn a multi-fight contract with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
“I don’t feel anything right now,” Neal said in a post-fight interview. “It hasn’t sunk in yet that I’m in the UFC. This has been my goal since I started MMA and now I’m here.
“I just fought 11 days ago then I come in here and get the same results.”
Neal, who was coming off a first-round knockout of Legacy Fighting veteran Bilal Williams on July 14 in the Legacy Fighting Alliance 16, took a fight on UFC president Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series for fighters looking to earn a UFC contract.
Another impressive first-round KO of Chase Waldon up a weight-class in the middleweight (185-pound) division forced White to make a tough decision between the five fight winners on the night and Neal’s name was the first out of his mouth.
“This is a tough one,” said White. “I was in there for a long time debating over this and there are some guys that I’m not going to pick right now that I like a lot but tonight we’re going to take Geoff Neal and Karl Roberson.”
Strong guard play from the two Madis (junior Madison Griffon and sophomore Madisen Honea) along with some clutch rebounds late in the fourth by senior Erica Powell secured the no. 8 (TABC) ranked Lady Dawgs’ 60-53 over the no. 16 Waco Midway Pantherettes Dec. 12 at Bulldawg Gymnasium.
“It was definitely a good one,” said Copperas Cove head coach Eldridge McAdams. “I kept looking at the clock and thinking ‘come on clock.’ There are some things where we put ourselves in a hole. If we wouldn’t have done them, I think it would have been a lot more. They shot the free throws pretty good tonight and I think that helped them stay as close as it was.”
Neither team could seem to get the edge in the battle between the two District 8-6A foes until a late 8-0 spurt by the Lady Dawgs, paced by Griffon and Honea, gave Cove the lead for good.
“I was definitely feeling it today,” said Griffon. “My teammates and I were just focused on winning today, making each other better and just playing together. We’re just having fun this year and, on top of it, we’re getting wins.
“It’s always huge to play Midway and it’s even bigger to beat them and that’s what we wanted to do. We came in with the mindset of winning. We wanted to put a beat down on them and I think we did good job.”
Strong plays in the paint by Powell, including a strong putback with just over a minute remaining, closed out the win for the Lady Dawgs (17-2 overall, 2-0 in District 8-6A).
“Our hustle definitely helped with that,” said Griffon. “Erica is going to give us 110 percent, 110 percent of the time. It really showed and paid off on that play.”
When you’re hot, you’re hot and the Copperas Cove Bulldawgs were white hot as they put on an offensive clinic in their 104-73 win over the San Angelo Central Bobcats in their District 8-6A opener Friday night in Bulldawgs Gymnasium to improve to 16-1 on the year and 1-0 in district play.
“We have some guys that can shoot the basketball,” said Copperas Cove head basketball coach Billy White Jr. “When they are shooting the ball and shooting it well, that’s what we’re capable of doing. We had a lot of different guys scoring and that’s what helped us get to 104 points.
“That’s the thing with this team. They can get hot and score quickly. Once they get hot, the floodgates open. We have a drill called 105-5 where they have to get 105 makes in five minutes. Every month we increase it by five so we’re at 120 right now.”
Senior Justus Honea’s career-best 31 points led the torrent pace with seven three-pointers, including four as part of a 36-point first quarter. He was also a perfect 6 for 6 from the free throw line.
“When it goes in, it goes in,” said a smiling Honea. “I was just letting it fly. There was a spurt where I had two misses but my teammates know I can shoot so they just kept getting me the ball and it kept going in.
White feels Honea made have had some other fuel for his big night as well.
“He was definitely on fire tonight and that’s something he’s capable of doing at any given time,” he said. “I know he’s from that area so I that that added a little more motivation tonight.”
The Dawgs energy level seemed to fuel to scoring onslaught.
“Adrenaline is a big thing,” said Honea. “My teammates getting hyped - and I’m right there with them - is a big deal.”
Ball movement is another, says White.
“With this year’s group that ball just moves, so it’s tough for defenses to keep up with the basketball,” he said. “Once those guys catch it, they’re always catching it in rhythm and making that extra pass for a wide-open jump shot.
“I hate to compare them but if you look at the San Antonio Spurs or the Golden State Warriors and teams like that where they move the ball constantly and they have great shooters, those are the results you can get from that.”
McALLEN – Three Copperas Cove athletes bring home the gold and another earned a silver medal in the Texas Amateur Athletic Federation Track and Field Summer Games of Texas state meet on the final weekend of July in McAllen.
“It was really exciting to see everybody do so well in very hot weather,” said Copperas Cove Summer Track head coach Keith Stifflemire. “It didn’t seem to bother us like it did some people. I was really pleased with the performances from the little guys all the way up. It was great.”
Incoming junior Shontez Simmons showed he was all healed up from an injury that kept him sidelined during the spring by winning a gold medal in the 200m dash at the state meet.
“He’s coming off an injury and we were wondering how well he would recover from it but he seems like he’s at full go to be out there winning the state track meet,” said Stifflemire. “It was real exciting to see him win the state meet.”
Simmons ran a time of 22.42 seconds to edge Jaelin Benefield (22.60) of Galena Park and Frankie Sanchez (22.66) of the No Speed Limit team to win the 16-and-uder boys 100-meter dash.
Simmons just missed he podium in his other event. He ran a time of 11.57 seconds to finish fourth in the event behind Galena Park’s James Ware (11.30).
Also claiming a gold medal was Kyle Stifflemire with a 15-feet leap in the 18U pole vault.
A coach’s son, Stifflemire is always pushing himself to do better and, despite claiming the top spot at one of the top events in Texas, he was wanting just two more inches.
“He got 15-1 at the Brownwood meet and he’s cleared 15-feet three times now so that’s good,” said father and head coach Stifflemire. “He always wants to do a little better. He didn’t (set a personal record) but he was close. He wasn’t disappointed but he wasn’t real satisfied because he was hoping to get a PR.”
Outgoing senior Reginald Mouton capped his high school career with a bang be claiming a gold medal in the 18U boys 800m run with a time of 1:57.60. Mouton bested Jake Merrill of Amarillo Spa by nearly a second to claim the top spot.
“He had a great spring and a great career at Copperas Cove,” said coach Stifflemire. “I think that was just like icing on the cake to go down there and get a gold medal. I think it was 106 degrees when he ran and it didn’t seem to bother him at all. He was well prepared and worked hard all summer.”
Also finishing atop the podium was Amy Pritchard in the 16U girls’ high jump. She cleared the 5 feet, 2 inch mark to tie with Madison Alegria before losing in a jump off.
“We were super excited for her to PR,” said Stifflemire. “We think that when she gets in high school next year, she’s going to be something else.”
WEST – It wasn’t the cleanest game of their season but Copperas Cove head volleyball coach Cari Lowery knew coming in that playoff jitters might have been a problem for her inexperienced squad.
The nerves showed themselves a bit but the team’s poise shown ever brighter in the 3-0 sweep of Cedar Hill in the bi-district round of the 2017 volleyball playoffs Tuesday night at West High School.
The Lady Dawgs dominated the first set before having to battle for their lives in the final two sets to secure the sweep.
“It’s a win and we’re excited about it,” said Lowery. “For young kids that a majority of them have never been in a playoff game, I think we performed well because we could have lost it in game two and lost our focus. We didn’t. We fought back. We were behind almost the whole game and we fought back. We also fought back in game three.
We did not play, offensively, like we needed to play in game two and game three. In game one, we played an offensive quick game…our game.”
The Lady Dawgs may have taken their foot off the gas after dominating game one 25-12 and almost lost game two before a kill by senior Talia Kinslow and a block by Kinslow and junior Jada Close kept the Lady Dawgs firmly in control of the match 2-0.
“I kept telling them, ‘they’re not going to lay down,’” said Lowery. “They are playing for their lives so every point has got to count.’ I was proud that we made some plays out of nothing and we were scrappy when we needed to be so I’m happy.”
Toy Bowl Avengers
The Copperas Cove Buckeyes scored 20 fourth-quarter points to defeat the Copperas Cove Aggies 20-14 in the 2017 Copperas Cove Youth Football League Toy Bowl Championship Nov. 30 at Bulldawg Stadium.
The Buckeyes lost to the Aggies in last year’s title game but avenged that loss and their 28-20 regular season loss with a with a late rally Thursday, led by a strong defensive effort.
“It feels really good,” said Buckeyes head coach Allen Swank. “The coaches and kids really put in a lot of work. They came to practice every day ready to play. They had the focus to come out here and do their jobs well and that’s what they did.”
Touchdown runs of 34, 56, 79 ad 29 yards accounted for the four scores that led the Broncos to their 25-6 revenge win over the Texans in the early game of the Toy Bowl Championship doubleheader.
The Broncos finished atop the division last year before getting stopped in the title game by a surging Texans team that peaked at the right time after a 2-7 regular season record.
“It’s a wonderful thing,” said Broncos head coach Jonathan Fernandez. “They got to the championship last year but it just wasn’t our year. These guys fought hard this year and they played their tails off every single game. I can’t be more proud of the young men for what they’ve done.”
The Broncos also suffered their only loss of the regular season at the hands of the Texans before winning the most important game of their season on Thursday to claim the Copperas Cove Youth Football League Division I title.
BELTON - A wild night of football landed the Cop- peras Cove Bulldawgs in the playoffs when things looked bleak to begin the night.
The Bulldawgs would not only have to beat the number two team in the district Belton on their home turf, the Daw- gs would also need Harker Heights to knock off the team that beat them a week earlier in Killeen.
By the end of the night that’s exactly what happened, despite Cove trailing 35-14 to the Tigers with 1:17 left in the third quarter when Cove scored their first of 23 unan swered points to escape Tiger Field with a 37-35 victory and earn the final spot in the playoffs after Harker Heights knocked off Killeen 25-24.
The best drive of night to that point for Cove of 11 plays resulted in a two-yard touch- down pass from senior quarterback Jaylen Smith to senior wideout Floyd Connell.
Cove junior Kyle Stifflemire recovered an onside kick by senior Andy Riley-Clark at the Cove 47-yard line to give the Dawgs new life.
Four plays later the Dawgs pulled within one score on a 31-yard pass from Smith to senior Bryce Ranes for the score and a 35-28 Belton lead.
The Dawgs defense then made their impact on the game when junior linebacker Jack Shumaker stripped Belton ball carrier Darren Rector and
Connell fell on it at the Dawgs’ 36 with 8:59 remaining in the contest.
Five plays later the Dawgs score the potentially tying touchdown on a one-yard run by senior Dylan Taijeron but the blocked extra point left Cove trailing by one point, 35- 34, with 7:00 left in the game. Anther huge defensive stand by the Bulldawgs gave the offense back the ball with the opportunity for the win.
The Dawgs then embarked on a 14-play drive that chewed up 4:04 of the remaining 4:36 of game clock and Riley-Clark kicked the winning field goal from 20 yards out with 36 seconds remaining.
DENISON – The Copperas Cove Dynamite 12-and-under softball team took a hit in their chances for a state title when they lost their opening round contest to the Mildred Pride in the opening round of the 2017 Texas Teenage State Softball. However, the squad showed their grit by rallying through the loser’s bracket with four straight wins to set up a rematch Wednesday night with the Pride for a shot in the semifinals.
The Dynamite were performing well in their second attempt against the Pride leading by the same 5-1 score they lost by in the opening round matchup with Mildred.
The Pride battled back to take a one run lead, 6-5, in the sixth inning; aided by some Dynamite miscues.
The Dynamite squad was unable to get that run back in the final inning and finished fourth in the state.
Two clutch hits by second baseman Cedric Camacho from the sixth-spot in the lineup was all junior hurler Cameron Johnson would need to secure the victory with his no-hitter performance through 6 2/3 innings of action at home March 28 in a 2-0 win over the Ellison Eagles.
The junior righty gave up a few free bases to put runners in scoring position in the third and fifth innings before quelling the threat with strikeouts on both occasions as part of his 12 strike out performance.
“I felt pretty good,” said Johnson. “I thought the defense did really well and Cedric came through with those clutch hits. Without that defense, the no-hitter wouldn’t have been possible.
“I was spotting up that fastball and it seemed like they really couldn’t catch up to it so I was trying to use it to my advantage and let the defense work for me.”
He did just that with four induced fly outs and two groundouts to go with his 12 Ks.
Four Copperas Cove football players and another former footballer that transitioned to golf participated in National Signing Day festivities Feb. 3 at the high school.
Tariq Anthony and Tyson Curry signed from the defensive side of the ball to Kilgore College and Cisco College, respectfully while tackle Bryant Williams (Howard Payne University) and running back Kylan Herrera (Navarro College) will move on to the next level from the offensive side.
Caden McAnally, son of longtime Cove football coach Vance McAnally, also signed to play at the next level in golf at Waldorf University in Forest City, Iowa.
Three Lady Dawgs also participated in the ceremony. Signing were Brianna Acker (Abilene Christian University-volleyball), Amber Boyd (University of Texas at San Antonio-track and cross country) and Katie Nelson (Clarendon College-softball).
Playing at the next level is a dream for most athletes. A foursome of Copperas Cove athletes turned those dreams into reality and commemorated it with the second signing ceremony of the year on March 1.
Quarterback Caine Garner (Division III University of Mary-Hardin Baylor), running back Elijah Washington (Div. III Howard Payne University) and deep snapper Sean Adams (Div. I New Mexico State) signed to play football at the next level while Kianna Childers will continue her volleyball career at NAIA William Penn University in Oskaloosa Iowa.
Senior Eric Cain almost didn’t run track in high school at all and senior Josh Canete almost hung up his cleats after a disappointing showing at the UIL State Track and Field Championships as a junior.
However, both guys dug in their heels and closed out their final year at Copperas Cove by signing to run track for the Division I track powerhouses University of Texas and the University of Texas at Arlington, respectively, at the final singing of the 2016-17 school year in May.
Senior Marcus McCrae also has an opportunity to continue a career he thought might never come to fruition.
The senior defensive back signed to play for the 2016 Division III National Champion University of Mary Hardin-Baylor football team where he expects to compete for a spot on a perennial talented squad.
In a last-minute ceremony in August, Copperas Cove basketball standout Kayla McCloud decided to continue her career as a member of the Jacksonville Junior College Jaguars.
Three Copperas Cove baseball players closed out the high school signing year when they participated in a mock signing event on Nov. 8 signifying their signing National Letters of Intent to play baseball collegiately.
Seniors Jaylen Smith (Prairie View A&M University), Cameron Johnson (Angelo State) and Tyler Ingram (St. Edwards University) all got their futures mapped out and the pressure off before embarking on their senior seasons for the baseball team that will get underway after the New Year.
Also signing to the next level were former Dawgs Mikayla Blount, Shawnte Goff and Ricardo Artis.
Blount moved up from the junior college ranks of Temple to plays hoops for Angelo State and former Copperas Cove head basketball coach Kevin Baker.
Goff and Artis both signed to play basketball professionally.
Goff headed overseas to play with Lokomotiva Trutnov of the Czech Women’s Basketball League and Artis signed to play professionally in Mexico.