The Cooper football team put together a strong 2016 season, as the Hawks pieced together an 8-2 record, but, after losing 29 seniors, the Hawks were looking forward to game action in order to properly assess the team.
Cooper opened its season against Park Center Aug. 31, and, while the two teams played to a scoreless first quarter, Cooper scored 33 points in the second quarter to eventually take a 39-12 victory to open the season.
“There were a couple of calls that didn’t go our way and set our momentum backwards a little bit,” Cooper head football coach Willie Howard said. “We talk about adversity, and if we make a mistake, a champion isn’t defined by who gets knocked down, but by who gets up the fastest.
“We got up fast and that was important.”
Cameron King threw for 217 yards and four touchdowns, with the first touchdown landing in the hands of senior Phoenix Sproles, who broke free on a 58-yard touchdown to start the scoring. Sproles, on the ensuing offensive drive, returned a punt 38 yards to set the Hawks up with good field position.
“We weren’t supposed to run that punt return, but I took what I was given and the guys were just making outstanding blocks, everyone was getting hyped and we got that energy,” Sproles said. “Then the cornerback was playing inside on me a little, so I took advantage of that by going inside with him so he would bite, then I went back outside and I noticed they were one safety deep, so they didn’t have a chance at all.
“Cameron made an outstanding read, he fed me the ball quick instead of a far 9-route so I had time to sprint and make the touchdown.”
King’s other touchdowns went to Pedro Amoussou, Dkyzian Clay and Adrian Adams. King credits his success to his offensive line, a unit that has four new starters this season.
“I was really impressed with how the offensive line did today,” King said. “We have four brand-new starters and I was impressed with what they did. All credit goes to them.”
Cooper was also lifted by two defensive touchdowns, as Nate Hill returned an interception six yards for a score, and Onte Burns returned an interception 62 yards for a touchdown.
“As we move forward again, the biggest thing, when the team on the other side is well-coached and you lose 29 seniors, you have to figure out what you have,” Howard said. “We knew we had a good football team based on what they have given us all summer long.
“Because of that, we just have to start off fast.”
Howard believes that strong preparation guided his team to the victory.
“We had to unleash it, and we scrimmaged some good football teams, Rogers, Mahtomedi and Chaska, so we got to see competition at a high level,” Howard said. “Really being able to get that timing down and go against a team that has been practicing their tails off to do some good things, it’s our time now to get something done.”
While outside sources have high expectations for the Hawks this seaosn, Howard said that his team’s focus remains on going 1-0 each week, a tactic that has led to success in recent seasons.
“The expectation is to go 1-0, and that’s all we can ever talk about,” Howard said. “We talked about it last year and had some success, and we talked about it the year before that and had some success.
“A lot of our kids don’t know where they’re going to sleep at night, so to try to make them look to the future is not important to us, we want to focus on the task at hand.”
Cooper will play next against St. Louis Park at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8, at Cooper High School.
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