Friday, September 25, 2009

Cooper's Cooper is a Cougar on the loose!

Alford Cooper got a taste of what life’s like on the Cooper varsity last year, when he got called up for the playoffs. He ended up running for 93 yards on 17 carries in three games playing behind A’mon Pimpton and Kendrick Powdrill.
Even though he knew Pimpton, who led the team in rushing last season with 1,513 yards and 19 touchdowns, would move on after graduation, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound junior running back expected to play a backup role to Powdrill — last season’s District 4-4A newcomer of the year — this year.
That hasn’t been the case. In fact, Cooper has emerged as the Cougars’ starting running back. He leads the team in rushing with 393 yards on 58 carries, and he has four touchdowns.
It’s not the role the shy, quiet Cooper expected to play on this team.
“At first, I thought I would be doing what they needed me to do, like backup Kendrick and stuff like that,” he said.
Cooper coach Mike Spradlin, though, knew the young running back would play a big role this year.
“We saw it last year,” he said. “He was really our go-to guy on the JV as a sophomore, then we had a chance bring him up in the playoffs, and he got some carries.”
Cooper was impressive in his first game this season, rushing for a game-high 106 yards on nine carries in a 56-7 win over O.D. Wyatt. He also had a touchdown. But a week later against Fort Worth Boswell, the wheels kind of fell off for Cooper. He ran for just 68 yards on 15 carries, and he fumbled twice in a 38-28 victory.
The two fumbles deflated Cooper’s confidence in himself.
“After those two fumbles, I was pretty down,” he said.
Spradlin, though, wouldn’t let Cooper wallow in self pity — or stop believing in his ability.
A week later, Cooper led the Coogs in rushing with 95 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries in a 49-37 loss to Abilene High — and no fumbles.
“I think that’s where he really matured,” Spradlin said. “Alford’s real passionate about being a team player, and he doesn’t want to hurt the team. I finally just told him, ‘Let it go, just let it go. Go be you.’ Sure enough, he did that.”
Spradlin said he knew his young running back would be OK, when Cooper caught a short pass from quarterback Ryan Heslep on a third-and-nine play at the Coogs’ 34-yard line and picked up the first down on the team’s first drive. Cooper also had a 13-yard run on a third-and-five play later in the drive that ended with a Cougar touchdown.
“There was a point where Ryan kind of shuttled it to him there, and he ran over a safety for a first down,” Spradlin said. “That’s kind of where he broke out. He did OK in the first two games, but he just started playing like I knew he could. He’s a physical, tough guy, and he’s got good speed, too. He’s very explosive.”
Cooper had his most impressive game last week in the 34-30 loss to Garland. Cooper ran for a career-high 124 yards on 14 carries. It appeared he had iced the game on a 52-yard touchdown run that gave the Coogs a 30-13 lead with 8:38 remaining in the game.
“The O-line blocked it up, and I had a cutback to the side and took it all the way,” Cooper said. “Our wide receivers did a good job (blocking) too.”
Garland, though, rallied for the victory, but Cooper nearly saved the day a second time. Later in the game, he had a 32-yard run down to the Owls 37 negated by a holding call. The drive ended up stalling at the Cooper 42, and Garland answered with the winning touchdown.
But Spradlin said Cooper does a lot more than just run the ball.
“The thing we like about Alford is that he’s not just a runner. He’s a great pass blocker,” Spradlin said. “He takes a lot of pride in his whole game. He’s not just a guy who’s just trying to be a good running back. He’s probably the most complete guy we’ve had since I’ve been here, as far as his pass protection and all the things he does.”
Cooper, who also has four catches for 39 yards, is just one part of an explosive Cougars offense. The Coogs are averaging 480.25 yards per game, including 225 on the ground. Cooper, along with the senior Powdrill (25-313, 5 TDs) and junior Davon Riddick (17-104, 2 TDs), keep opposing defenses from just defending the pass.
“We’ve had some success with the play-action stuff,” Spradlin said. “We’re running some bootlegs and things like that. If your running game’s strong, then you’ve got a chance to do some of that stuff. We’re about as complete right now as we’ve been — throwing and running. We don’t have to rely on one thing. I think that’s what keeps defenses off balance.’
And even though Cooper has stolen some of the Powdrill’s thunder, he said the two of them get along just fine.
“Our relationship is pretty good,” Cooper said. “All of three of us, even Davon, we hang out sometimes, play video games and stuff like that.”
Spradlin expects Cooper’s relationship with the team to continue to be a pretty good one, too. It’s interesting to note that since the Boswell game, Cooper hasn’t put the ball on the ground once.
“I think he knows now he can trust himself,” Spradlin said. “He doesn’t have to be too careful. What we don’t want around here is guys who are playing careful. I don’t want to play not to lose. I want to play to win. I want guys going all out, and I think he’s doing that. I’m real proud of him.”
Joey D. Richards
Abilene Reporter News

No comments:

Post a Comment