New faces and new places for Copperas Cove in 2018
By TJ MAXWELL
The Copperas Cove Bulldawgs’ 2018 sports scene has seen its share of ups and downs, but overall it was another solid year for the program and former Dawgs.
The biggest story of the year for most Bulldawg fans was the retirement of longtime head football coach and athletic director Jack Welch and subsequent hiring of Jack Alvarez to fill the vacancy left by Welch.
Alvarez then led the Bulldawgs to a 7-3 season and playoff berth despite a truncated practice season.
Alvarez won a state championship in 2014 as head coach of the Ennis Lions.
Another highlight of 2018 was the signing of former Bulldawg Geoff Neal to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and his two highlight-reel wins by rear naked choke and knockout to begin his UFC career in style.
Geoff “Handz of Steel” Neal choked out Brian “Mantis” Camozzi Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) debut Sunday during the UFC Fight Night Cowboy vs Medeiros fight card at Austin’s Frank Erwin Center in February.
Neal returned to the octagon on Sept. 11 where he landed a devastating head kick on Frank “The Crank” Camacho in the second round to move to 10-2 overall and 2-0 in the UFC.
Copperas Cove Baseball also topped the list with their record year and drafting of left-handed hurler Jaylen Smith by the Philadelphia Phillies Mayor League Baseball team.
The Dawgs finished with their best-ever record of 25-6-2 and finished with their highest playoff seeding at no. 2. The Dawgs then opened the playoffs with a 7-6 win and forced a game three against Irving MacArthur in the opening round of the playoffs before eventually falling.
The Dawgs opened the season 14-0-2 on the way to their best-ever record.
Smith was drafted in the 29th round of the 2018 Major League Baseball draft in June and left for Florida almost immediately, despite signing to play for San Jacinto College.
A few days later, fellow senior pitcher Cameron Johnson was named to the Texas High School Baseball Coaches’ Association Class 6A All-State team.
Within a week of that, head baseball coach Dusty Brittain left for Seguin and began the summer coaching carousel that saw many news faces in many new places at Copperas Cove High School.
One face that didn’t change was atop the volleyball program.
Longtime head volleyball coach Cari Lowery and her Lady Dawgs set another record in a long line of recent records in the program.
The Lady Dawgs reached as high as no. 5 in the state rankings and finished the season with a school and personal best for coach Lowery of 41 wins as they rolled over Mesquite Horn in the playoffs to improve to 41-3 on the season before getting knocked out by No. 4 ranked Prosper in the Area round for a 41-4 final record.
“The 41 wins is a school record,” said Lowery. “No one, to my knowledge, has ever won 41 games in season. As a head coach I had never won more than 40 so that’s a new record for me as well.”
Sophomore Alyssa Arnold nearly claimed a state title at the Texas High School Women’s Powerlifting Association State Meet in March.
Arnold lifted a tying weight of 1,240 pounds but finished as the silver medalist due to her opponent, Marlene Martinez weighing seven less pounds.
“I was glad that I got my lift and I thought that I had her, but she bumped up and got her last lift,” said Arnold. “I was upset but I’m a sophomore and I have two more years.”
Just a couple weeks later, freshman phenom golfer Elle Fox captured the District 8-6A crown and led the girls’ team to a regional berth for the first time in 14 years. Fox earned the individual crown with a two-round total of 107.
“This is my favorite course,” said Fox. “It means so much to win my first district title here. This is my first time going under par on this course. It means a lot.”
Below is a list of other highlights across the program in sequential order.
AquaDawgs qualify for Regionals in 12 events
The Copperas Cove AquaDawgs swim team broke a myriad of school records on their way, including district championships. Senior Jacob Guerrero won gold in the 200-yard freestyle and edged teammate Carson McVeigh in the 50-yard freestyle for a 1-2 finish and anchored the 200-yard freestyle relay with McVeigh, senior De’Vaunte Jackson and sophomore Ryan Lippert. McVeigh also won the 100-yard freestyle.
National Signing Day
Seniors Floyd Connell and Kalen Honts signed letters of intent to play football for Division I University of Louisiana-Monroe while Honts signed to play for Div. II McMurry University.
Lady Dawgs’ Soccer makes fourth-consecutive playoff berth
The Lady Dawgs’ soccer team made their fourth-straight playoff appearance and gave Irving MacArthur a scare in the first round of the playoffs, trailing at halftime by a single score in the 3-0 loss.
Cove OC Welch leaves for Lake Worth
The first move of the eventual revamping of the football coaching staff came when Tracy Welch, offensive coordinator and brother of head coach Jack Welch, left for the head job at Class 4A Lake Worth in April. Assistant coaches Tracy Ranes, Vance McAnally soon followed.
Lady Dawgs’ softball clinches playoff berth
The Lady Dawgs knocked off Harker Heights and Killeen in to lock up a spot in the playoffs before eventually falling to Belton to finish the season 8-6 in district action.
Cove track and Field sends five to Region I-6A meet
Senior Aidan Chace secured the gold medal in the high jump with a personal best 5 feet, 8 inches to earn a spot. Senior Neyland Block earned a silver in the high jump to earn his spot and senior Darius Fuselier earned a silver in the pole vault and Tim Doyle earned the bronze and a regional berth. Lastly, senior Daveon Thomas punched his ticket with a fourth-place finish.
Dawg Baseball locks up 2 seed
The Copperas Cove baseball team earned a 12-2 win over Belton to lock up the no. 2 seed in the playoffs.
The Dawgs combined for 15 hits while defensively holding the Tigers to just four hits in game two of the two-game play-in series at Tiger Field.
More Cove athletes sign to play at next level
Two Lady Dawgs and five Bulldawgs signed to play their respective sports in college during a May 2 signing ceremony. Four more Bulldawgs signed during a late May ceremony.
Hoopster Erica Powell signed a letter of intent to play basketball at Tyler Junior College during the May 2 ceremony while cheerleader Carleigh Ross signed with the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. Five footballers participated in the boys’ ceremony. Signing were (left to right) Juan Jimenez (Abilene Christian University), Zane Stephens McMurry University), Cade Garner-Stewart (Oklahoma Panhandle State University), Myles Alexander (Oklahoma Panhandle State University) and Joshua “Zaye” Pettit (Texas Wesleyan University).
In the late May ceremony, four basketball players and another cheerleader inked their deals. Basketball players Neyland Block (Tarleton State University), Francisco Alvarado (Blinn College), Justus Honea (Southwestern University) and Daveon Stringer (Mountain View College) signed to their respective school while Derrick Burleson signed to cheer for Tyler Junior College.
Duke Thomas holds Inaugural football camp
Former Bulldawg and former Dallas Cowboy, Orlando “Duke” Thomas, held his inaugural football clinic in July.
Cove athletes qualify for AAU Junior Olympics
Eighth-grader Kyra Gaston qualified for the 14-and-under triple jump with a 33-feet, 10 inch mark at the AAU Region V meet held at Converse Judson Stadium in Converse.
Also moving on was senior speedster Shontez Simmons. Despite a hamstring injury that
limited his ability, Simmons finished sixth in the 18-and-under 200-meter dash with a time of 22.87 seconds.
Senior Kyle Stifflemire took the top spot in the boy’s 18-and-under pole vault to qualify for the Junior Games. His vault of 15-feet even tied Cole Newman but Stifflemire took less attempts to win gold.
Kellen Avritt also leaped his way to a first-place finish in the boys’ 16-and-under pole vault.
He cleared 14-feet even for the gold.
Sluggers among final four at State softball tourney
The Copperas Cove Sluggers 12-and-under team finish in the final four teams vying for the Texas Teenage 12-and-under softball state title.
Their first loss of the year came in the third round of the state tournament. The Lady Dawgs then needed to win three games in one day to make it to the title game but they came up against a strong Denison team.
Basketball, track positions filled from within, baseball gets new face
Former Copperas Cove football and track standout and running backs coach for the football team, Donald Buckram, took over the duties for the boys’ track program following the departure of Keith Stifflemire.
Travis Boyce Jr took over the head basketball duties for former coach Billy White Jr, who recently became an assistant principal at the high school.
Former Ennis head baseball coach Robert “Bob” Macy took over the head baseball
coaching duties for the departed Dusty Brittain. Brittain finished his career at Cove with a 72-56-3 record and led the Bulldawgs to the playoffs in three of his five seasons.
Macy was 61-34 overall and 28-11 in District 14-5A action and was 6-7 in the postseason
with the Lions.
Cove athletes earn medals at TAAF State Track meet
Copperas Cove track standouts Kyle Stifflemire and Kyra Gaston had another strong showing to highlight their summer track season. Their latest accomplishments came with medal finishes at the Texas Amateur Athletic Federation Games of Texas in College Station in July. Stifflemire cleared 15 feet, 6 inches on his second attempt to claim the silver medal in the 18-and-under boys’ pole vault while Gaston brought home two medals in the high jump and triple jump. She earned a silver in the triple jump (34 feet, 7 inches) and bronze in the high jump (4 feet, 6 inches).
Honea earns silver at District Meet; advances to regionals
Junior harrier Madisen “MJ” Honea ran a blazing time of 18 minutes, 42.30 seconds to finish second at the District 12-6A meet in Waco and earn a trip to the Region II-6A meet at Lynn Creek Park in Grand Prairie.
Jason Evans: From Copperas Cove Parks & Recreation to World Cup
A Central Texas man who got his start in soccer on the playing fields of Copperas
Cove recently found himself on a bigger playing field when he competed on a team representing the United States at the Amputee World Cup, held in San Juan de Los Lagos, Jalisco, Mexico, from October 27-30.
Jason Evans is a 1999 graduate of Lampasas High School, but attended Copperas Cove through his freshman and sophomore years of high school.
In 1989, Evans lost his left leg to bone cancer.
Robison invited to Junior All-American Games
Copperas Cove eighth-grader Lynsey Robison was selected to play in the Junior All-American Games at Miss Sarasota Softball Complex in Sarasota, Florida beginning November 23. Robison was also a member of the state finalist Copperas Cove Sluggers’ squad.