Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sandra Fowler, by nature, isn’t a hater. She doesn’t hold any ill will against Abilene High.
Still, the 1968 Cooper graduate bleeds Cougar red and blue, and she’s well aware of the fact the Coogs haven’t beaten their crosstown rival since 2003. So it’s only natural that she would love to see the Cooper football team finally end the drought Friday night at Shotwell Stadium.
“The time is now,” she said. “I’ve ridden the roller coaster through the years. It’s just time.”
And even someone as upbeat and positive as Fowler admits that sometimes, she believes a few Abilene High fans tend to get a bit smug about the Eagles’ recent run of success in the crosstown clash.
“Sometimes you feel like they put you down,” she said. “So we kind of get tired of that. So this is one way, if you win, they don’t put you down.”
Fowler doesn’t say that with any bitterness or animosity. It’s more like she’s disappointed that anyone would turn a game — one played by high school students — into a nasty, hurtful thing. And in her own back yard, among her own people, no less.
This is supposed to be fun, about choosing up sides and building up your side while not tearing down the other. And Fowler, a teacher for 34 years, does love building youngsters, hoping they’ll see the benefit of being part of something bigger than themselves. That’s why she’s been involved as an active, hands-on Cooper supporter for the past 10 years.
She got the bug back when she was in high school, watching adults in the booster club work so hard for the Cooper athletes.
“It changed my life,” she said. “I just watched all these adults come and put up posters and banners. So whenever my daughter came through Cooper, I was just waiting, on the edge, ready to go. I just felt like it was my time to carry the baton, so to speak.”
Fowler — Sandra Choate back then — was a cheerleader at Cooper. She was on the sidelines cheering on her Coogs during that memorable fall in 1967, when the Cooper football team marched all the way to the state championship game, falling by one point to Austin Reagan.
Now, Sandra and her husband, Cliff, are both active in the Cooper Booster Club, even though their daughter, Lindsay, graduated from CHS in 2002.
Cliff, a 1967 Cooper graduate, puts up all the Cougars flags that wave at Shotwell Stadium on gameday. Sandra, who teaches reading skills at Dyess Elementary, organizes the Cougar Crew — a group of elementary students who make up the line the Coogs run through before the game. She also helps her husband decorate the stadium, and, this week, she even cut streamers you’ll see flying around town.
“It’s my way of giving back,” Sandra said. “I mean, it’s a contribution to the community. West Texas football is unique. I think it’s a community thing. I hope that any kids who happen to see what Cliff and I do will put that away, file it away, so that when they have children, they won’t be just sitting on their hands.”
And Sandra respects anyone who does their part — whether they’re doing it for the Cougars or Abilene High.
In fact, had she ended up teaching at a school that feeds into Abilene High, instead of Dyess, which feeds into Cooper, she would be spending this week building little Eagles fans.
“It would be hard,” the diehard Cougar fan said. “But I thought about it a long time. I would encourage my kids to participate, because I think that’s very important. I would be promoting: ‘Someday you’re going to Abilene High. You need to buy into this. You need to be participating, be a part. Don’t just be floating out there somewhere.”

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