Second-half turnovers cost Bulldawgs in 41-14 loss to Tigers
By TJ MAXWELL
What started out as a back-and-forth battle between the Tigers of Belton and the Bulldawgs of Copperas Cove quickly devolved into a rout as the Tigers scored three unanswered touchdowns and a field goal with the help of three Bulldawgs’ turnovers in the third quarter of Copperas Cove’s Homecoming clash with the Belton Tigers.
The two teams combined for seven turnovers, but it would be the Tigers that managed to capitalize on the mistakes with 24 unanswered points on their way to a 41-14 win Friday night at Bulldawg Stadium.
“At this point in the season, it’s on me,” said Copperas Cove athletic director and head football coach Jason Hammett after the loss. “You can’t just keep saying what if this and what if that. I’m disappointed because I know what we can be.
“The third quarter is not where we are so, as a coach, you’ve got associate your role in that and how you fix it. As a coach, you’ve got to look internally and see what need to be doing better in preparation. Part of that preparation is preparation of the kids’ hearts and minds to play four quarters. Physically, we could have, but mentally and emotionally, we just came out and let it get was ahead of us in the third quarter.”
Leading 17-14 to open the second half, the Tigers took the opening drive 81 yards on eight plays with a 20-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Ty Brown to senior wideout Garret Mooney for the 24-14 Belton lead after the extra point by Zach White.
A snap when Copperas Cove senior quarterback Shane Richey wasn’t ready led to the first of three second-half turnovers for the Bulldawgs.
The Bulldawgs managed to get the ball back four plays later when a pass attempt from Brown ricocheted in the air off of Cove sophomore defender Jalien Thomas and senior Chandler Gastelo came down with the ball and returned it to the Copperas Cove 44.
The Belton defense brought pressure on Richey four plays later and one of the defenders got a piece of the pass attempt by Richey and it landed in the lap of Belton senior Taylor Evans in stride and he returned it for the touchdown and a 31-14 Belton lead after the White extra point.
After the Tigers forced a Bulldawg punt on 4th and 5 from the Cove 32, senior Slade Leblanc led the Tigers down the field on five plays with the scoring play coming on a 38-yard pass from Leblanc to senior running back Elijah Warner for a 38-14 Belton lead with 2:42 left in the third quarter.
The Bulldawgs surrendered their third turnover of the quarter when a pass intended for Cove sophomore Demetrius Pearce was intercepted by Belton senior Kage Carmichael inside the Cove 20 and was returned to the Belton 30 with 53 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Tigers converted that turnover into another three points when White connected on a 30-yard field goal to give the Tigers their final score of 41-14.
Hammett was disappointed with the result but saw some bright spots as well.
“That’s the thing. I’ve seen the potential of most of these guys and I believe in them,” said Hammett. “We just have to produce.
“Our defense really came together. Bra’Dyn Brooks stepped over and played some outside linebacker and was in the backfield a good portion of the night. Our DBs played on balls better when the ball was in the air. We made two busts in coverage in the first half that cost us a little bit, but there are bright spots. Our D-line is getting better by not getting pushed around and the offensive line came off the ball really well in the first half.”
The Tigers finished with 424 total yards on 62 plays for 6.8 yards per with a balanced attack of 222 yards through the air and 202 on the ground. Belton was 5 for 11 on third down conversion attempts and 1 for 3 on fourth down and finished with three turnovers.
The Bulldawgs finished with 242 total yards on 56 plays for a 4.3 yards per play clip with 189 yards coming on the ground and 53 coming through the air. The Bulldawgs were 2 for 12 on third down attempts and 2 for 6 on fourth down. The Bulldawgsfinished with two lost fumbles and two interceptions.
Richey was 5 for 16passing for 28 yards with Pearce the leading target with two catches for 36 yards. Senior Wyatt nelson added two grabs for 12 yards and junior Ezekiel kaleopa-Lynn had one catch for six yards.
The Bulldawgs’ rushing attack was led by senior Malcom Roberts with 17 carries for 122 yards and a touchdown while junior Craig Brown had eight carries for 43 yards and a fumble and Richey had seven carries for 28 yards.
Senior Bra’Dyn Brooks-Smith, who recently added defensive back to his duties led the Bulldawgs with 8.5 tackles with junior Coffa Tulensru (4.5), freshman Xavier Taclibon (4.0) and junior Kevin Pontius (3.0, 2.0 tackles for loss) following.
Brown was 10 for 15 passing for 126 yards, two touchdowns and one interception while LeBlanc added 8 for 10 passing for 96 yards and a score.
The leading receiver was senior Seth Morgan with seven catches for 60 yards and a score, followed by Warner with two catches for 58 yards and a touchdown, senior Itty Henry with five catches for 42 yards and Mooney with 1 catch for 20 yards and a score.
The Tigers’ rushing attack was led by Warner with 132 yards on 15 carries. LeBlanc added 47 yards on eight totes and senior Ritchie Willess had four carries for 29 yards.
Senior Aaron Bain led the Tigers tacklers with 6.5 followed by junior Donovan Thompson with 5.5 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for losses and a sack, senior Gabe Kalama (4.0) and senior Trenton West (3.5, TFL).
The Bulldawgs struck first with a 23-yard touchdown by Richey after Brooks-Smith punched the ball free from Belton’s Luna and Pontius pounced on it at the 23. The Tigers forced a turnover on downs on the Bulldawgs’ first possession before giving up the fumble three plays later.
The Tigers answered with a long scoring drive of their own. A 30-yard field goal by White capped an eight-play, 72-yard drive. A 27-yard run by LeBlanc, an 18-yard run by Warner and passes from Leblanc to Henry helped set up the field goal.
The Tigers forced another turnover on downs on an incomplete pass at the 50-yard line on 4th and 4.
The Tigers capitalized six plays later on a one-yard touchdown plunge from Brown on a keeper for the Tigers’ first lead of the game 10-7 with 10:40 left in the second quarter. Passes from Brown to Morgan, along with a four-yard run by Warner and 20-yard pass from Brown to Warner that put the Tigers at the one.
The Bulldawgs regained the lead with a nine-yard touchdown run by Roberts that capped a five-play, 67-yard drive. Runs of 14, 28 and 10 yards by Roberts and a six-yard run by Brown set up the Roberts score for a 14-10 Cove lead with 8:31 left in the first half.
It took the Tigers just five plays to get back in control when Brown found Morgan all alone for a 19-yard score to cap the 64-yard drive. A pass from Brown to Henry and a 38-yard run by Warner set up the score.
Both teams fumbled it away on their next possessions with Bain getting a recovery for the Tigers and Donell getting one for the Bulldawgs poked out by Pontius.
Neither team could take advantage of their takeaways.
The Bulldawgs had one last opportunity to take the lead with time winding down in the half, but a turnover on downs on 4th and 3 and the Tigers’ 11-yard line ended that opportunity.
The Tigers led the first half statistics with 195 yards on 26 plays for a 7.5 yards per play average with 113 of those yards through the air while the Bulldawgs had 152 yards of total offense on 32 plays for a 4.8 average with 135 yards coming from the rushing attack.
The Bulldawgs (0-4 overall, 0-1 in District 12-6A) don’t have much time to dwell on the loss as they get back to action this Thursday at Leo Buckley Stadium against the Shoemaker Grey Wolves. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.
“We’ve got to get our minds right tomorrow, put this thing to bed and move on to Shoemaker quickly,” he said. “We only have really three days of preparation for that game. For us, it’s a mental week. We’ve got to get mentally prepared as much as physically.”