For 43 minutes, Waxahachie dominated all phases of Saturday’s Class 4A Division I Region II playoff game.
However, for the second straight year, a late rally by Copperas Cove ended the Indians’ hopes of a long playoff run as the Bulldawgs scored 23 points in the final 5:18 to escape with a 37-35 win at Waco ISD Stadium.
“We knew we were going to have our hands full,” Indian head coach David Ream said. “Unfortunately, we had to play them in the first round. We’re going home and packing our stuff up. We have too good of a football team for that.”
With seven minutes left, Copperas Cove took over at their own 24-yard line, trailing 28-14. In those final seven minutes, quarterback Robert Griffin threw for 88 yards and ran for another 50. Running back Troy Vital added 62 rushing yards.
The tandem’s 200 yards helped the Bulldawgs score 23 straight points to take a 37-28 lead with 1:06 remaining. Waxahachie scored with four seconds left to pull within two, but John Ropple recovered the ensuing onside kick, allowing Copperas Cove to run out the clock.
“I have never felt like this before,” senior linebacker Gary Mason said. “We missed a couple tackles and they gained momentum on us. We just couldn’t stop them.”
Waxahachie was its own worst enemy, committing 10 penalties for 89 yards while Copperas Cove was penalized twice for 15 yards - one of which was a 5-yard penalty on the game’s final play.
Two of the game’s biggest penalties came after the Bulldawgs had cut the lead to 28-21. With the Indians trying to run out the clock, they were penalized five yards on first down and then 15 yards after Dominique Collins ran for eight yards that would have set up a second-and-seven.
"They didn’t get any holding penalties when they should have and we had holding penalties when we shouldn’t have," Ream said. "Penalties made the difference in the ball game."
Waxahachie controlled things early on, moving deep inside Copperas Cove territory on their first three drives. Two of those drives ended in touchdowns while another resulted in a blocked field goal.
The Indians took the opening kickoff and drove 74 yards in 11 plays with Dominique Carson getting the final 15 on a touchdown run with 6:22 left in the first quarter.
After forcing the Bulldawgs to punt after three plays, the Indians drove to the Copperas Cove 21-yard line, but were held scoreless when the Bulldawgs blocked a field goal attempt.
The Indians didn’t give Copperas Cove a chance to block their next field goal attempt, when Sam Gagliano took the pitch on a fake field goal attempt and scampered seven yards for a touchdown midway through the second quarter.
Copperas Cove answered with an 11-play, 55-yard drive that culminated in a 3-yard touchdown run by Vital with just over two minutes left in the first half.
The score remained 14-7 through most of the third quarter until Griffin scored on a 1-yard plunge with 2:28 left in the third.
The game did not remain tied for long as Boomer Collins threw a 73-yard touchdown pass to Sidney Easley on the first play of the Indians’ next possession.
With 9:42 left in the fourth, the Indians appeared to put the game away with a 7-yard touchdown run by Carson that gave Waxahachie a 28-14 lead.
The Indians then intercepted Copperas Cove’s first play after the kickoff, but could sustain a long drive.
That’s when things started to fall apart.
Vital scored with 5:18 remaining to cut the lead 28-21. Then, on a third-and-10 play, Griffin threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Josh Boyce to tie the game with 2:04 remaining.
Waxahachie muffed the ensuing kickoff and started from its own 6-yard line. Two plays later, Copperas Cove was credited with a safety, giving the Bulldawgs their first lead of the game with 1:06 to play, 30-28.
After the free kick, Griffin needed just two runs to put the game out of reach with a 27-yard touchdown run.
The Indians drove 65 yards in 42 seconds, scoring on a 24-yard pass from Collins to Gagliano, but it was too little too late.
"We had it the whole game," Collins said. "We just let it go. We should have won that game."
With the win, Copperas Cove moves on to play Samuell next weekend.