The programs that were printed for the home opener inside Coppell’s Buddy Echols Field had two numbers in bold: 0-6.
That was the record of an LD Bell program that went winless in district play a year ago, but on Friday night, the Cowboys got anything but a stat-padding contest as they escaped with a 17-10 victory.
After an early 23-yard touchdown throw from junior quarterback Ryan Walker to sophomore Anthony Black less than two minutes into the game, the Blue Raiders controlled the action for the next 26 minutes of football. Converting on third downs and employing their unique triple-option attack, Bell dominated time of possession and frustrated the Coppell defensive coordinators.
Often playing behind the chains, Blue Raiders signal-caller Landry Choate kept finding extra yards on third down to keep his offense on the field. Choate finished with 105 yards on the ground and averaged 7.5 yards a carry.
It wasn’t until 5:30 left in the final frame that Coppell was able to breathe comfortably on the night. Starting on their own 29-yard line, the Cowboys established the running attack for the first time all night.
Opening the drive with a junior running back Jason Nwgu 9-yard carry, Coppell marched down the field on four straight runs. When the drive finally stalled inside the red zone, junior kicker Tyler Reid knocked through a 34-yard attempt to make it a two-possession game, 17-7. Nwgu tallied 62 yards on 12 carries in a physical ground game.
“I was pleased offensively, it was better than last week. I thought we executed at times well and we got better,” said Mike DeWitt, Coppell head coach. “We still have some things to clean up and look at the tape but it was good.”
For Coppell, it was a game of missed opportunities. With such a limited number of possessions, where Bell had possession of the ball for over 70% of the evening, the Cowboys squandered chances to put points on the board.
Twice inside the red zone, poor snaps resulted in large chunks of lost yardage that took Reid out of field-goal range. When gifted with good field position, starting drives inside Bell territory on four separate occasions, the home team was only able to author a lone scoring drive — in the first quarter.
Both touchdowns for the Cowboys were the result of free plays. In the first quarter, Bell jumped offsides prior to the snap and, recognizing a prime opportunity to take a shot down field, Walker lofted a touchdown to Black.
With 7:56 in the third quarter, it was deja vu for the Blue Raiders, who jumped offsides again and saw Walker give his favorite target yet another chance at the big play. This time, Black caught a ball in traffic and ran the ball into the end zone for his second touchdown, a 28-yard score.
“(Black) is a great target for us. He has good height and length and he made a nice play on the comeback route to give up a touchdown in the third quarter,” DeWitt said.
The two-sport standout totaled five receptions for 62 yards and two scores on the night, averaging 12.5 yards a catch.
The coaching staff was most pleased with a strong defensive performance from Coppell, giving up just 10 points. With the game tied or within one possession for all but five minutes, a tired defense stood tall when they needed to.
“The triple option is not something we normally see and I thought our guys handled it really well. We did a really good job of bending when we needed to but not breaking. That was really good for us when, on their last drive, we held them to a field goal within the red zone,” DeWitt said. “We wanted them to have to have long drives, with how they want to run the football, and field position was big in this game.”
Most drives, and all but one in the second half, started inside the Bell 20-yard line for the away offensive unit. As a result, a handful of big runs that the Raiders were able to rail off were mitigated.
The win moves Coppell to 1-1 on the season and the road only gets tougher from here. The Cowboys move on to play one of the premier teams in the state, visiting Allen at 7 p.m. Friday.