State Champion, DI signings highlight turbulent 2021 for Copperas Cove Bulldawgs
By TJ MAXWELL
Copperas Cove Leader-Press
After 2020 was all but wiped away by the novel coronavirus COVID-19 and the worldwide pandemic that soon followed, a sense of somewhat normality returned to the country and the Copperas Cove athletics program.
The 2021 campaign saw its share of lowlights with the Bulldawgs suffering their second-consecutive one-win season and third-consecutive losing season. However, the Bulldawgs also has some shining moments as a program and as individuals.
One of the brightest moments came in Powerlifting State Championship by junior Tyler Morrow. Morrow brought a gold medal home to Copperas Cove after lifting a combined 1,010 pounds to in the 114-pound at the Texas High School Powerlifting Association Division I Boys’ State Meet held at the Taylor County Expo Center in Abilene.
Morrow was coming off a record-breaking performance at the Region II Division I meet where he set a new meet record for the deadlift at 455 lbs. and total weight for the 1,025 lbs.
Also topping the list of accomplishments in 2021 were the plethora of college signings, led by a quintet of Division I signees in standout graduates Elle Fox (Mississippi State - Golf), Bre’onna McCarthy-Reese (Abilene Christian University – Track & Field), Justin Raines (Tarleton State University - Track & Field), Travis Sanders (Texas Tech – Baseball), and Alina Salazar (Mississippi Valley State University - Softball ).
Below are some more highlights from the 2021 Bulldawgs’ and Lady Dawgs’ campaigns:
The 2021 season begins just how it ends with squeaking of sneakers on the basketball hardwood, cold nights on the soccer pitch and the clanking of weights of powerlifting.
Both the boys’ and girls’ basketball and soccer teams were scrapping for one of four playoff spots in a tough District 12-6A while the powerlifting program was getting off to a fast start with a strong finish at the Belton Tiger Duals, led by Morrow and a slate of other lifters.
February kicked off with a bang with National Signing Day with seven student-athletes making their college commitments – highlighted by Fox’s and McCarthy-Reese’s signings.
“It’s crazy. I never thought that I would get here,” Fox said during the ceremony. “I always wanted to be a Division I athlete. It’s finally here and I can’t wait. It has taken a lot of hard work, sweat and tears. I’m just thankful for my parents for letting me have this opportunity, so I’m really thankful for them.”
McCarthy-Reese also fulfilled a personal goal.
“Abilene Christian was one of my dream schools, so it was really cool that I could run for my dream school,” she said. “It’s really cool and really exciting, but I’m really nervous at the same time.”
Also signing were: Brooke Schmidt (softball-Hill College), Madison Seibel (soccer-Sterling College), Jeremy Carter (football-University of Mary Hardin-Baylor), and Thomas Holman (football-Southeastern Oklahoma State University).
The Bulldawgs baseball and Lady Dawgs softball teams also got underway.
The Lady Dawgs softball team improved to 6-1 to start off March while then junior Travis Sanders was named 6A D-Bat Hitter of the Week. His stats for the week were: 11-for-19, .579 batting average, 4 HR, 2 3B, 2 2B, 13 RBI, 12 R, 4 BB).
Copperas Cove senior Thomas Holman, along with Morrow, clinched a spot in the State Powerlifting.
At regionals Morrow took the top spot in the 114 classification with 1,025 total pounds (370, 200, 455). He beat the next competitor by 225 pounds in Burleson Centennial’s Coal Aylesworth 800 pounds (295, 175, 330).
Holman totaled 1,575 pounds (630, 405, 540) in the Super Heavyweight class for a second-place finish.
The Lady Dawgs took five lifters to the State Powerlifting Meet in Corpus Christi. Three of them finished in the top 5 receiving medals. Alyssa Marmolejo - 97 weight class placed 5th, Arianna Eseroma - 148 weight class placed 3rd and Jiya Edwards - 165 weight class placed 4th. Eseroma received the THSWPA scholarship for the 6A lifters and Jiya Edwards received outstanding lifter for the deadlift.
The March signing ceremony saw Trent Davidson (academics-Texas A&M University), McKenzie Agnello (football-Texas A&M-Commerce) and Isaiah Chisholm (football-RPA College Prep in Euless) make their college commitments.
The Lady Dawgs softball team outscored their opponents 42-7 on their way to their best district start in program history. The Lady Dawgs moved to 4-0 with a 10-5 road win over the Ellison Lady Eagles.
“This is the best start in this program’s history,” said Copperas Cove head softball coach Bryan Waller. “They set a goal and, right now, we’re achieving that goal. They are determined and they’re playing their tails off.”
Cove’s Elle Fox and the girls’ team, along with boys’ sophomore Coleton Sizemore, earned a trip to the Region II-6A Golf tourney. Fox won her third-consecutive district championship to earn the spot while leading her team of Ella Crawley, Kristina Varela, Sophia Lewis and Ayden McCracken. The girls combined for an 828 to take second place as a team and qualify for regionals. Sizemore shot a combined 163 (82-81) to finish third and book a trip to regionals.
Morrow, coming off a record-breaking performance at the Region II Division I meet where he set a new meet record for the deadlift at 455 lbs. and total weight for the 1,025 lbs., took state gold at Abilene. Morrow combined for 1,010 pounds (380 squat, 215 bench press, 415 deadlift) in the 114-pound weight division to earn a gold medal and state championship. Holman finished seventh in the state in the Super Heavywight Division with a combined 1,605 lbs. (630 squat, 420 bench press, 555 deadlift).
Three Copperas Cove track and field athletes punched their ticket to the Region II-6A Track and
Field Championships. Copperas Cove senior Justin Raines was the lone qualifier for the boys with a second-place finish in the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 14.78 seconds.
Qualifying for the Lady Dawgs were senior Jaylyn Ayala with a third-place finish in the 400-meter dash with a time of 60.07. Also snagging a spot at regionals was Jasmine Davis who tied for third with a leap of 5-feet even.
The boys’ wrestling team advanced five wrestlers to regionals after a third-place finish at the District 7-6A tournament. Advancing to the Region II-6A Meet were: Frankie Limon and Ryan Bithorn who both finished first to earn a spot while Jayden Copeland finished second with James Vandiver and Damian Martinez both finishing third in their weight class.
Five more athletes were sent to college ranks in a rare end of month ceremony.
Lady Dawgs’ basketball player A’Zariah “AZ” Knotts signed to play basketball with the University of North Texas-Dallas Trailblazers and Bulldawgs’ tennis player Adrian Alejandro signed to play for Schreiner University in Kerrville. The Cove football program saw three players sign with Ayden Paquette heading to Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa to play for the Yelowjackets; Javaris Barnes heading to Oklahoma Panhandle State University in Goodwell, Oklahoma to play for the Aggies; and Brody Sanders will play for the Javelinas of Texas A&M-Kingsville.
Copperas Cove senior Elle Fox earned her first-ever trip to state, finishing third at the Region II-6A Golf Tournament. She shot a two-day total of 150 to finish third and qualify for the 6A Girls State Championships.
The Bulldawgs’ football program opened spring practice under second-year head coach Jason Hammett to close out the month.
It was a disappointing ending to an historic season for head coach Bryan Waller and the Copperas Cove Lady Dawgs as the Mansfield Lake Ridge Lady Eagles outscored them 13-2 to sweep the bi-district best of three series held at Whitney High School over the weekend.
After earning a second-place seed with the best season in school history with a 26-5 record and 10-2 district record, the Lady Dawgs were unable to keep that momentum going against the Lady Eagles of District 11-6A.
The Bulldawgs baseball team rallied from a 4-0 deficit to earn a 5-4 win and the final playoff spot in a play-in game against the Temple Wildcats.
The Bulldawgs baseball team split the first two playoff games in the best-of-three bi-district playoff series against the Mansfield Tigers. The Bulldawgs pulled out a 5-3 win after falling behind 3-0 in game one. The Tigers returned the favor in game two with a three-run walk-off home run to win game two 7-5 after falling behind 2-0 in the early goings. The Tigers rallied in game three from 3-1 down to defeat the Bulldawgs 7-4 and advance.
Cove’s Fox capped her historic career with 13th-place finish at state the UIL State Golf Tournament at the Legacy Hills Golf Club in Georgetown on May 10-11. She finished with a combined 150 (76-74).
“I’m proud of myself for just making it to state but getting a top 15 finish - I like it,” said Fox. “Even though it’s not Top 5 or Top 10. I’ll take it. “I just wanted to make a statement on Copperas Cove, and I wanted people to remember me by that.”
Fox finished her high school golf career as one the most successful golfers in Copperas Cove history and as the most accomplished female golfer in the school’s history.
The Bulldawgs’ football teams closed their 18-day spring practice schedule with an intersquad scrimmage on May 20.
Five more student athletes booked their trip to the collegiate level in the final signing ceremony of the school year, led by Division I signee Justin Raines (Tarleton State University - Track & Field). Also signing were: Alonnie Carter (basketball - Cedar Valley Community College), Jasmine Sankey (basketball - Cedar Valley Community College), Branden Jackson (football - University of Texas-San Antonio and Dekan Radigan (baseball - Wiley College).
The Lady Dawgs’ historic season was recognized by district coaches with eight Lady Dawgs selected to the District 12-6A All-District Softball Team and a ninth receiving Honorable Mention.
Copperas Cove freshman shortstop Meagan Hunt earned the superlative of Co-Offensive Most Valuable Player alongside Bryan senior catcher Jacque Adams.
Cove graduating seniors and battery mates Brooke Schmidt (pitcher) and Alina Salazar (catcher) were named to the 12-6A First Team, along with freshman third baseman Larissa Perez and freshman second baseman Joleeanna Hair. Cove sophomore outfielder Anissa Amaro and sophomore pitcher/outfeld/catcher Lynsey Robison, along with junior centerfielder Emma Wasiak, were selected to the 12-6A Second Team. Cove sophomore first baseman Alejandro Espinoza received an Honorable Mention.
Four Bulldawgs were also named to the 12-6A All-District Baseball Team. Copperas Cove senior pitcher Dekan Radigan was named a First Team Pitcher. Sanders was named First Team
Shortstop while senior Russel Cochran was named First Team Utility Player. Cove senior Jace Johnson was selected a Second Team Outfielder.
Four student-athletes got one more chance to represent their schools, their faith, and their communities at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes annual Victory Bowl games. Senior utility player Russel Cochran will represent the Copperas Cove baseball team while Brooke Schmidt will represent Cove softball. Representing the Copperas Cove football team were defensive linemen Ayden Paquette and defensive back Isaiah Chisolm.
Sanders was named to the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association 6A All-State Team as a First Team Shortstop.
One of the most successful athletes in the history of Copperas Cove athletics, Shereka Wright, paid a visit to her Alma Mater to close out June, more than 20 years after graduating as the top player in the country.
Copperas Cove resident, former Lampasas Badger and Texas Longhorn, Steffin McCarter, leaped a career-best 8.26-meters/27-feet, 1.25-inches in the long jump to finish third at the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon and secure his spot in the XXXII Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Sanders was selected for a spot on the Texas Rangers’ roster for the 2021 Area Code games for the top 220-plus high school baseball players from across the country in the 2022 and 2023 class. The five-day showcase featured the best incoming juniors and seniors from across the nation while being evaluated at the highest level by scouts from all 30 Major League Baseball programs as well as top coaches from the NCAA ranks.
Two Lady Dawgs were named to the Texas Sports Writers Association 6A All-State Softball Team. Perez was named to the 6A Third Team as a third baseman while Hunt received an Honorable Mention as a utility player.
Cove’s Sanders and his Dallas Polk team won the 17U National Division of the Five Tool Texas Satellite World Series. Sanders was 2 for 4 with a run and an RBI in the title game 12-2 win and was 5 for 15 for five runs, 4 RBIs with a walk and a double for the tournament.
Copperas Cove head volleyball coach and girls’ athletic coordinator Cari Lowery moved into 12th-place all-time in wins with 841 and she is the fourth winningest active coach. The record came in during the Lady Dawgs’ sweep of the Cedar Creek Lady Eagles to open the season.
The Bulldawgs kicked off their second full season under head football coach and athletic director Jason Hammett on August 9 before holding their annual Soap and Towel scrimmage.
The Bulldawgs opened the season with a 69-27 loss to the Stony Point Tigers at Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex in Round Rock.
The Copperas Cove Lady Dawgs volleyball team closed out their non-district schedule of 31
games in 27 days with an 18-13 record before opening district play with a sweep of Temple, a 3-1 win over Killeen and a sweep of Heights.
The Lady Dawgs rebounded from two rare district losses to close out September and open October with a sweep of Shoemaker and Temple.
The Copperas Cove Bulldawgs put all aspects of their game together in a 56-33 win over the Killeen Kangaroos to put themselves within a game of five other 12-6A teams with just four games remaining in the regular season.
The Lady Dawgs (8-3) took care of business with a sweep of Ellison (7-4) to regain that third spot in District 12-6A behind Belton (10-1) and Bryan (10-1) in the top two spots with just three games remaining in district competition.
It wasn’t the cleanest game of the year for the Copperas Cove Lady Dawgs volleyball team, but it may have been the grittiest as they held off a surging Belton Lady Tigers’ squad to win 3-2 (19-25, 25-23, 25-23, 8-25, 16-14) to clinch a playoff spot. Cove then swept Shoemaker to force a three-way tie for second. Unfortunately, the Lady Dawgs lost the tiebreaker and entered the playoffs for the 17-consecutive year as the fourth seed.
The Lady Dawgs run into a buzzsaw in the 2021 UIL State Volleyball Playoffs, in District 11-6A champions Mansfield where they suffered a 3-0 sweep (25-16, 25-6, 25-16) at the hands of the Lady Tigers.
After a long commitment, Copperas Cove senior Travis Sanders made it official when he signed to play baseball for Texas Tech University during a signing ceremony on November 10 at Copperas Cove High School’s Lea Ledger Auditorium.
“(It’s been a) longtime coming,” said Sanders after verbally committing to the Red Raiders in Oct. of 2019. “It means the world to me. The recruiting process took a long time. To get the verbal commitment was special to me, but actually sign the paper and get it locked for sure, means the world. A lot of hard hours, long nights and lots of dedication went into this. I’m very grateful that I have this opportunity and I’m ready to go play at the next level.”
The coaches of District 12-6A voted on the 12-6A All-District selections with six Lady Dawgs volleyball players making the squad and three more receiving honorable mentions. Seniors Kyra Gaston and Emma Wasiak received superlatives with Gaston being named 12-6A Blocker of the Year and Wasiak being named 12-6A Defender of the Year. Senior Jiya Edwards and sophomore Larissa Perez were named to the First Team. Junior setter Jakhi Smith and senior hitter Jamesia Moody were named to the Second Team. Junior defensive specialist Leila Cooks, senior defensive specialist Leeann Edmond and junior setter Alanna Hairston received honorable mentions.
The Bulldawgs’ football team had some highlights along the way notching five spots on the 2021 12-6A All-District Football Team, with the leg of senior quarterback/punter Shane Richey leading the way for Cove’s five selections as a First Team Punter. Four more Bulldawgs were selected to the Second Team. Senior running back Malcom Roberts and senior wide receiver Wyatt Nelson earned the offensive nods while junior inside linebacker Kevin Pontious and two-way player Bra’Dyn Brooks-Smith earned spots on the defense.
Cove wrestlers finish sixth at loaded Capital Classic in Austin. Frankie Limon, Ryan Bithorn, and Caleb Emberton (220) all finished 3rd in their brackets for the boys. Three Lady Dawg wrestlers were also able to make their way to the medal stand with Leeann Edmond (110) and Jennifer Denton (165) getting 4th while Mya Watson was able to go undefeated for gold.
The Lady Dawgs’ basketball team earned a 58-45 win over the Lampasas Lady Badgers to move to 11-4 on the season after winning three of their last four contests.
Bulldawgs earn consecutive come-from-behind wins over Waco 45-42 in non-district action and Temple 66-58 in the District 12-6A opener.
Cove wrestling claims three more championships before holiday break. The Lady Dawgs are state-ranked for first time in program history.
#9-6A Frankie Limon (126) and #13-6A Ryan Bithorn (170) continued their dominance by making their to back-to-back Super Finals.
The Lady Dawgs won multiple medals. #3-6A Mya Watson (215) bounced back from her 3rd place finish last week and pinned her way to her second championship of the year and punched her ticket to the Super Final.
At the midway point of the season, the Bulldawgs have 2 state ranked wrestlers: Frankie Limon #9-6A and Ryan Bithorn #13-6A. The Lady Dawgs also have 2 state ranked wrestlers: Michaela Grimm #15-6A and Mya Watson #3-6A. The Lady Dawgs as a whole are currently ranked #23-6A. This is the first time either team has been ranked in the state.
Janel Golderos (119) also pinned her way to her second 1st place match of the year before losing in the championship match against #13-6A Bella Madid from Austin Westlake. Leeann Edmond (110) also won 3rd in her bracket. Michaela Grimm (95), Dalyncia Cook (128), Jennifer Denton (148), Vera Hathaway (165), and Anastasia Cook (185) all added team points for the Lady Dawgs. The Lady Dawgs finished 8th out of 47 teams and were only 8 points away from being tied for 3rd.