Mistakes doom Dawgs in season opener against A&M

By TJ MAXWELL
Sports editor

COLLEGE STATION –  Four turnovers by Copperas Cove, a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by A&M Consolidated and nearly a dozen missed tackles by the Dawgs’ defense helped the experienced Tigers to a 34-14 victory on opening night of the 2017 football season Friday night at Tiger Field in College Station.
Interceptions by Consol senior Chase Martinez in the first half and Nate Floyd in the second half stalled productive drives by the Bulldawgs, including one pick in the red zone and one just outside of the zone.
“We’ve got to tackle better,” said Copperas Cove head coach and athletic director Jack Welch. “We were in position and playing a good football game to start off with defensively. Offensively we had a hard time getting it started. We’re inexperienced and they’re very experienced. 
“I thought our kids kept battling and fighting but we just didn’t tackle well the first half. We’ve got to get better at that. On the other hand, we’ve got to make sure wetake care of the football because thaat just adds to it when you’re playing an experienced team.”
After taking a 17-0 lead into the locker room, the Consolidated Tigers took the opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown by senior Charles Williams to put the Bulldawgs in a 24-0 hole with 11:46 left to play in the quarter.
The Bulldawgs reaponded with a nine-play 70 yard drive that culminated in a one-yard touchdown run by senior Tim Edwards to break the shutout. 
“The (offensive) line needs to improve and I need to hit it quicker,” Edwards said about the Dawgs slow offensive start. “We all need to hit it quicker.” 
They were really quick and really strong up front. (Josh Ellison) kept busting through the line and we couldn’t really do much with that the majority of the game.
After short passes to senior Daveon Thomas and Floyd Connell started the drive, a 36-yard pass from senior quarterback Jaylen Smith to Connell put the Dawgs just outside of the Tiger red zone at the 22.
Smith then connected with senior Kaleb Hontz to put Cove at the 16 and Connell for 15 yards before Edwards punched it in on 2nd and 1. The point after attempt by Antonio Mutt made it a 24-7 Consolidated lead with 5:02 remaining in the third.
The Tigers threatened again on their next possession with a 32-yrad pass from Consol junior quarterback Caden Fedora to junior Steven Ray that put the Tigers inside the 10-yard line but a three-yard tackle for loss by junior Mark Gastello and a sack by senior Zach Moody forced the Tigers to settle for a 36-yard field goal from senior Cade Williams for the 27-7 advantage.
The Bulldawgs again stumbled on their next offensive possession when Smith attempted to float a pass in to Connell over the head of Floyd but he made a leaping catch for the interception.
A 14-yard run by Vincent Sheffield and a 15-yard facemask penalty against the Dawgs again gave the Tigers good field position to end the third quarter and a 24-yard touchdown run from Fedora 12 seconds into the fourth quarter put the Tigers in control 34-7 with 11:48 remaining.
After a three-and-out by Cove, the Tigers again made their way down field before Cove senior Brandon Simmons dropped back up quarterback Dalton Faltysek for a two-yard loss and senior Darius Fusilier broke up a Faltysek pass at the goal line to force another field goal attempt.
Cove junior Jack Schumaker got a hand on the field goal attempt and junior Tommy Connell returned it   51 yards to the Tigers’ 36.
A pass from junior back up quarterback Easton Simpson to senior Deadrian Malone and a pair of runs by Edwards set up the Dawgs at the A&M five-yard line before junior Shontez Simmons ran it in for the final score of the contest.
After the third interception of the game, this one thrown by Simpson, the Tigers again drove down field paced by runs from junior Vincent Sheffield before a stronf goal line stand by the Dawgs kept them out of the end zone on three runs.
The Tigers outpaced the Bulldawgs 239 total yards to 59 en route to a 17-0 lead in the first half.
The Tigers got on the scoreboard early in the second quarter on a 22-yard field goal by  Williams with 10:36 left in the first half to culminate an 11-play drive.
A three-and-out trip for the Dawgs on their next possession set up another scoring drive for the Tigers.
A 39-yard pass from Fedora to Williams put the Tigers near the Cove red zone and another 13-yard pass to Williams pushed the Tigers inside the Cove 10.
A seven-yard run by Consol senior Tre Newton pushed the Tigers to the goal line before another plunge by Newton gave the Tigers a 10-0 lead over the Bulldawgs with 5:55 remaining after the extra point by Williams.
The Bulldawgs put together their best drive of the half, highlighted by runs by Edwards and senior Dylan Taijeron and passes from Smith the senior Bryce Ranes, before a pass intended for Hontz was intercepted at the 15-yard line by Martinez.
The Tigers quickly made the Dawgs pay with a 27-yard pitch and catch from Fedora to Williams followed by passes of 13 yards and 29 yards from Fedora to Williams to put the Tigers in the red zone again. 
Fedora then found junior receiver Steven Ray in the front right corner of the end zone for the 17-0 half time lead after the extra point.
Fedora connected on 14 of 19 passes in the half, including the touchdown pass to Ray.
Fedora finshed the night with 19 of 24 passing for a touchdown and an interception where he targeted Ray eight times for 77 yards and a score and found Williams five times for 97 yards. Senior Trevor Williams led the Tiger defense with 6.5 tackles.
Smith finished 15 of 23 passing for 137 yards and two interceptions while Edwards rushed 13 times for 28 yards and a touchdown and Connell caught seven passes for 67 yards to lead the Dawgs. Senior Brandon Russ led the Cove defense with 5.5 tackles. 
The Dawgs get a chance to rebound this Friday at home against Mexico’s UANL Tigres and Connell feels focus is the key to victory.
“We’ve just got to go into the film focused, take it into practice and just focus on the next game,” he said. “A&M is a good team but I think we just need to brush up on things and take it into practice and work on it.”
 

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