A premiere gridiron match-up in Class 4A will take place at 1 p.m. Saturday at Waco ISD Stadium when Waxahachie (9-1) and Copperas Cove (8-2) meet in the first round of the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
In a very tight game last year, the Copperas Cove Dawgs took a last minute victory to eliminate the Tribe from the playoffs.
But, revenge is not the biggest motivation for Waxahachie.
“The first game of the playoffs is always the biggest hurdle,” Waxahachie High School Head coach David Ream said. “We need to do the things that will bring us a win.”
Copperas Cove was a state finalist in Division I last season, losing in the championship game 40-28 to Alamo Heights. Quarterback Robert Griffin threw for 249 yards and ran for three touchdowns and 89 yards in that title game.
Griffin is very fast. He is the reigning junior Olympic champion for the 300 intermediate hurdles. Griffin coupled with speedy tailback Troy Vital makes a terrific one-two punch for Cove. Wide receiver Josh Boyce and tight end Donel Morrison are garnering a lot of attention statewide as possession-type receivers.
On the defensive side of the ball, Cove boasts an all-state linebacker in Tanner Brock and a very quick hard-nosed line.
With all of that speed, Copperas Cove is a big play offense looking to explode at every chance.
But, if the old adage that defense wins championships holds true, the Tribe is poised for big things.
After two seasons of negative numbers in the take away contest, the Tribe has forced 16 turnovers and given the ball up just four times.
In the meeting last year against Cove, WHS lost the battle of special teams in a one-possession game. Three times the Cove punter pinned the Tribe deep in the Indians’ territory and inside the 10-yard line. On the other side, Cove began three drives inside the Waxahachie 30-yard line.
Ream is very impressed with the quality of football played by Copperas Cove.
“They have one of the fastest kids in the nation playing quarterback,” Ream said. “Then they have a premiere running back. The two are big cogs in their offense. They run out of the I-formation about half the time and the spread the rest of the time. They try to get the quarterback on the perimeter to take advantage of that speed. Their offense has been averaging about 45 points a game.”
“Their defense is led by their all-state linebacker,” Ream said. “They are physical up front and put pressure on the offense. There should be big plays on both side of the ball.”
Offensively, the Indians plan on giving the Dawgs a run for their money. Dominique Carson, at running back, is small but runs large and is very elusive. Ryan Wilson is an excellent possession receiver. Roderick Jefferson is a legitimate deep threat. Sophomore Sam Gagliano will line up anywhere and demands attention from the opposition.
Inside the red zone, the Indians call on Detric Slaughter and Hestand Foster. Both are bruising runners and can plow into the end zone.
Boomer Collins, who is a very capable passer, leads the Tribe. And, although he has not run as much this season as last, he can hurt a defense on the ground as well.
“Offensively we are not explosive,” Ream said. “We will need to control the ball and take time off the clock to keep their offense off the field.”
To counteract the Dawgs’ speedy offense, the Indians will line up Gary Mason Jr. and Drew Harrison at the defensive ends. Tom Flores applies a lot of pressure up front from the tackle position and will help to plug up the middle. Linebacker LaJordan Easley had the big hit of the week against Ennis last week and will be instrumental in helping stop the Cove running attack. The secondary led by Collins, Sidney Easley and Derrick Eldridge will be busy trying to contain on the outside and provide pass coverage.
One of the biggest tasks in picking up a win in the first round will be the punting by Collins and kicking by Colton Dobbins, as the special teams units need to provide good to great field position.
“Special teams - we need to get at least a tie by special teams. We cannot let them have the ball inside the 30 and a short field like we did three times last year. And, we need better field position than inside our own 10,” Ream said.
For the big game, Ream said he expects a large Waxahachie turnout.
“We will need it to offset the Copperas Cove crowd. They always bring a lot of fans,” he said, saying that if Waxahachie plays its best game, then good things will happen.
The winner of the bi-district game will advance to play Dallas Samuel.