Thursday, November 5, 2009

4-4A district title would be the perfect ending to Coopers regular season play!

Ryan Heslep never could have imagined this — not after winning one football game his seventh- and eighth-grade seasons at Madison Middle School. Now, Heslep and the Cooper Cougars have clinched at least a share of the District 4-4A title — and they can win it outright Friday with a victory over Plainview at Shotwell Stadium.
“We were talking the other day, we would have never thought about (winning a district title),” said Heslep, Cooper’s senior quarterback. “But we all got together, made a goal to win, and we stuck to it. We made each other accountable, and we went out there and did it.”
It’s been a wild ride for the Cougars. When Mike Spradlin took over as head coach in 2006, the Coogs hadn’t posted a winning season since going 6-5 in 2003 — the last year they won a district title or reached the playoffs.
Now, they’ve clinched their third straight trip to the playoffs and second straight winning season — and a district title to boot.
“It’s crazy,” said Tommy Bowman, a senior receiver. “Before Sprad came, I was in middle school and would come up and watch. It wasn’t that good. Us seniors never thought we’d come to Cooper and get (a title) again. None of us ever expected that, and it’s cool being the one to get the district ball back.”

Yet, Bowman sensed a change when he made the jump to Cooper. His freshman year was Spradlin’s first as head coach at Cooper.
“We came in as freshmen, Sprad’s first year, and he said he was going to turn things around,” Bowman said. “He pretty much did. As the four years went on as we came up, it’s been gradually getting better and better. We almost had it last year. This year, our senior year, to finally win it feels really good.”
Cooper went 4-6 overall and 1-4 in District 3-5A in 2006. The Coogs were 5-6 in 2007, but made the playoffs with a 1-4 record. Manfield Timberview beat Cooper 17-13 in the first round of the playoffs.
Last year, Cooper’s first in Class 4A, the Coogs won their first playoff game since 2002 and went three rounds in the playoffs before falling to Denton Guyer, 28-7, to finish 8-5 overall. Cooper was 4-1 in district, losing to Wolfforth Frenship, 16-10.
Now, only Plainview (2-7, 0-4) stands between Cooper (6-3, 4-0) and an outright title.
“Last year was a good year for us,” Spradlin said. “No question about it. Got the train started. Just to have the opportunity to get a gold district championship football is a big deal. We’ll sure enjoy that when the season’s over. It’s a sense of accomplishment, but not a satisfying thing right now. There’s too much left to do out there.”
Still, it’s hard for the Coogs not to relish what they’ve accomplished so far. This group of seniors have set the bar high for those that follow.
“It means a lot to us, doing something nobody’s done since 2003,” said T.C. Robinson, a senior defensive back who’ll play at Baylor next year. “We’re just setting a new standard at Cooper High School for the students coming after us.”
Added Heslep: “It’s kind of cool. Growing up, Cooper had such a great tradition. Then we kind of lost it for a while. It’s kind of cool being a part of bringing that back, restoring that tradition. That’s kind of a cool thing to do, but we just want to win games.”
Joey Richards

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