Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Mike Spradlin doesn’t mind admitting that tonight’s game against No. 7 Big Spring is a big game. After all, both are the last two undefeated teams in the District 4-4A standings — and the winner will be in the driver’s seat for the district title with only two games remaining.
“It’s a big ballgame,” said Spradlin, whose Coogs haven’t a district title since 2003. “We don’t try to dance around that. We don’t call it just another game. But we try to treat each game as a big ballgame, so our kids don’t ever feel like you’ve got to step it up a level. I think we’ve played at this level, and I think we’ve played good football teams. But (Big Spring) certainly one of them. There’s no question about it. They’re doing things extremely well, executing real well and getting the job done.”
The folks in Big Spring are buzzing about their Steers, who are 7-0 for the first time since 1931 and ranked No. 7 in the Associated Press’ Class 4A state poll.
“They are excited,” Big Spring coach Phillip Ritchey said. “They’ve really got on board, supporting this team. They’re a good group of kids, and they’ve worked extremely hard. I’m just happy to see them have the success their having. Really, just having Big Spring mentioned in big games like this is exciting.”
Big Spring, which hasn’t won a district title since 2001, took down Denison — ranked No. 4 in Class 4A at the time — earlier this year and then snapped defending district champion Frenship’s 16-game league winning streak in the 4-4A opener in Wolfforth. Denison has reeled off five straight wins since the loss.
Ritchey, though, said the Steers have their hands full tonight at Shotwell Stadium.
“I’m very impressed with (Cooper),” he said. “Obviously, they’re very well coached, very disciplined in what they do. To me, they’re excellent in all three phases of the game. I don’t see any weak spots.”
Both teams can eat up the yards and score a lot of points. Big Spring is averaging 450 yards and 42.3 points per game. Cooper is averaging 454 yards and 40.7 points a game.
The Coogs, 4-3 overall, have been a prolific passing team this year, with QB Ryan Heslep throwing for 1,642 yards and 15 TDs this season with no interceptions. He has six different receivers with more than 10 catches and more than 100 yards receiving. RBs Alford Cooper (75-452, TDs), Kendrick Powdrill (57-483, 7 TDs) and Davon Riddick (61-431, 8 TDs) have combined for a formidable rushing attack. The defense has struggled at times this year but has been playing its best ball the past two weeks — allowing only 227.5 yards and 14 points per game.
Big Spring is led by quarterback Tyler Tannehill, who has thrown for 1,592 yards and 22 touchdowns. He’s been picked off four times. He has weapons in receivers Tevian Parnell (22-431, 5 TDs) and Thaddeus Straughter (29-422, 6 TDs), and tight end Matt Ritchey (20-411, 4 TDs) also has good hands. The Steers also have one of the best running backs in the Big Country in Monte Anderson (174-1,465, 15 TDs), who’s averaging 209 yards per game.
Big Spring also can play some defense, leading the district with only 89 points allowed all season — that’s only 12.7 points per game.
“They’re just a good football team period,” Spradlin said. “They’re playing good defense. Their guys up front are getting the job done, both the O-line and D-line. They’re certainly dangerous with the Tannehill kid at quarterback and the receivers — the Straughter kid and Ritchey and all those guys. Of course, the Anderson kid is one of the great running backs we’ve seen. ... They’re certainly a good football team. We think it’s going to be a heck of a matchup, and we think it’s going to be a lot of fun at Shotwell.”
Both coaches believe turnovers could decide which teams wins the game.
“The one thing I’m real tickled with is that we’ve won the turnover battle week in and week out. ... I think that’s something we’ve got to keep doing,” Spradlin said.
Cooper hasn’t turned the ball over in five consecutive games.
“We’re going to have to play a perfect game,” Ritchey said. “We can’t make mistakes. We certainly can’t afford to turn the ball over. We can’t have a lot of penalties, and we have to be sound in the kicking game and really be able to handle their offense with our defense.”
The winner clinches a playoff berth, but both teams are likely headed to the playoffs, with Cooper going Division I as the biggest school in the district and Big Spring going Division II as the smallest. Both coaches believe this game will prepare their team for the playoffs.
“I’m really excited that we’re playing in Shotwell Stadium against a really, really good football team,” Ritchey said. “I really believe in our future, thinking about the third or fourth round.”
Said Spradlin: “It’s going to be a lot of fun. I hope everybody comes out. It’s going to be a big night at Shotwell. I think they’ll travel well. They’re real excited in Big Spring right now. They have every right to be. They’ve got a darned good football team. We think we’ve got us a good football team, too. It’s kind of what it’s all about. I think it’s a great West Texas matchup this week.”
Notes — Cooper seniors Tommy Bowman and David Damian both committed to Stephen F. Austin State University this week. Bowman, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound receiver, has 11 catches for 239 yards and three touchdowns this season. Damian is a 6-5, 290-pound offensive lineman.
“They offered them this summer, and they’ve really shown a lot of interest in them,” Spradlin said. “So I think they’re both excited in making that commitment.”

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