Johnson and the Bulldawgs: Building a foundation
By Clay Whittington
Tony Johnson is building a foundation.
Following several weeks of practices, Copperas Cove concluded its spring football schedule Tuesday, when Bulldawg Stadium played host to the team’s annual Blue & White Game.
For fans, it was an opportunity to get a glimpse of the talents that will be on display during the upcoming season, but the Bulldawgs’ new head coach had other priorities.
“I wanted to see hustle,” Johnson said, “I wanted to see good body language on the sideline, I wanted to see effort and I wanted to see kids in the right spots. For the most part, I saw those things.
“When I looked at the film from a year ago, a lot of those things were missing in the team. So, we are really starting from the ground up and building on discipline, being where you are supposed to be and acting like a football player.”
Johnson inherits a program that experienced just two victories during the previous two seasons, but after helping reverse the fortunes at Dallas W.T. White, he seems similar potential within the Bulldawgs.
And fans witnessed it as well during the spring game.
Along with running series of scripted plays, Copperas Cove simulated a live game scenario for a quarter, and the White team dominated, shutting out the Blue team 24-0 during the period behind a standout showing from incoming junior Demetrius Pearce. The receiver caught a pair of 60-yard touchdowns within the final 5 minutes, 4 seconds to punctuate the White team’s offensive outburst.
The scoring started with a successful 37-yard field goal from Jan Erdel, and less than 90 seconds later, defensive back Jayden Triplett returned an interception 50 yards for a touchdown.Then, quarterbacks Gabe Rodriguez and Anthony King took turns finding Pearce for one-play scoring drives.
“It felt great to get out and play,” Pearce said. “I love football. It is my passion, and we are looking really good as a team.”
Now, the goal is to continue improving throughout the summer in hopes of beginning the season with a victory for the first time since 2018, when the Bulldawgs finished with an overall record of 7-4. In the four years since, Copperas Cove is 6-34 and has not returned to the playoffs.
The Bulldawgs open the season Aug. 26 at home versus Georgetown.
It will be a difficult process, but Johnson is experienced in turning programs around.
In four years as head coach at Dallas W.T. White, he led the Longhorns to their first winning record in two decades and their first playoff appearance in 14 years. Additionally, the program had consecutive winning records for the first time in 40 years under Johnson.
To replicate the success, however, Johnson believes the spring game cannot be a stopping point for the team.
“Football is not over,” he said. “Strength and conditioning is equally as important as knowing all the plays. Now, we’re going to give the kids a break from us for seven to 10 days, let them get away from football, heal and get their minds refocused.
“Then, we will get back into that routine of lifting weights and getting our bodies and minds right.”