COPPERAS COVE, Texas (KWTX) The Copperas Cove Bulldawgs looked to be a team on the decline after the first two games of district 12-6A action, losing to Belton and Killeen in back-to-back weeks, including a 48-14 loss to the Kangaroos.
But the Dawgs won five of the next six to end the regular season, and needed a victory in the final week over Temple just to make the playoffs.
"We knew we were coming to play and knew we needed to win this one," senior defensive end Devyn Taylor said. "We were all in it together. During halftime, we came together as a team, had a talk, and on the field we just had to trust each other that we were going to do our jobs. You can't be second guessing yourself. You have to know what you've got to do. We came together as a team and we did it."
The 22-18 victory over Temple secured the final playoff spot from their district and avoided a three-way tie for fourth place.
However, it was a one-and-done type of playoff appearance in Jack Alvarez's first season as head coach, losing to the eventual 6A-II champion Longview Lobos 70-22.
"I feel like our team came together after we got our tails whipped really good by, I hate to say it, but Killeen whipped our tails pretty good," Alvarez said. "After that game, I thought our guys really came together and they started fighting for each other. I was really proud of what was accomplished last year. Obviously, we're not satisfied with that."
Copperas Cove will return five starters on each side of the ball. Junior quarterback Rusty Cochran has experience, so if there's any leader in the battle for that starting job, it's him, but not by much over sophomore Shane Richey.
The Bulldawgs will rely a bit on inexperience to get them through the season, but the Dawgs feel like the returning players will do what it takes to lead the way.
"That's one of the things we're trying to build on right now," senior running back Micah Cox said. "The seniors, that's what we're trying to step up and be. This year we have a good team. The leadership and the intensity is built up. It's a different atmosphere right now."
"I am ready. I am so ready," Taylor said. "Practice is the hard part. That's where you gotta grind it out. I love practicing, but I love football games. It's my favorite thing."
Copperas Cove begins the season with three straight home games -- Burleson, Manor and Belton.