Busy Cooper standing out on both sides of the ball
Ever since Blair Roman took over the Carson High football program seven years ago, he has had a Cooper in the program.
First it was Matt, who was part of two championship teams as a two-way lineman and later played one season at Butte College before transferring to University of Nevada. Following in his footsteps is Andy, a senior, who is in the middle of his second varsity season with the Senators.
Cooper, a starter at left guard, has been a stalwart on the offensive side of the ball. And, because of a rash of injuries in the defensive line, he’s played a lot more defensive tackle than he was expected to play.
“One word for Andy, he is a football warrior,” Roman said about his two-way senior lineman. “You won’t find a kid that plays as hard as he does every down. That’s the biggest compliment that I can give him.
“His motor is always going. He’s a mentally tough kid. He’s not going to back down even when he’s outsized or the other guy is stronger.”
It’s the ultimate compliment, and it shows the respect that Roman has for Cooper. The younger Cooper said that having his older brother precede him in the program helped get him ready, and he’s appreciative of the current coaching staff and the help they’ve given him.
“He (Matt) explained the need to buy in from Day 1,” Andy Cooper said. “He told me that I needed to trust them. The coaches have been great. Coach has shown us what a team needs to be.”
Help from big brother didn’t stop there. Matt has attended the bulk of Andy’s games and always gives his little brother critiques.
“He always gives me a goal to strive for,” Cooper said. “We watch film after every game. When we get home on Fridays, we turn on Huddle (on-line film) and watch the game on the computer. He’s tough, but that’s the way I like it. Matt set a standard for excellence with his teams. My goals are to be as great or better than his teams.”
The 3-1 Senators, who play at Reed on Friday (7 p.m.), are off to fast start. Cooper has had a big hand in that. His work in the trenches on both sides of the ball has been very good, especially the last three weeks. He’s helped the running game average 145 yards a contest, and he’s had a sack, two hurries and 10 tackles from his defensive tackle spot.
“Physically, my body has held up,” Cooper said. “All I need is to get in better condition. We do a lot of running in practice, and playing basketball definitely helped with my conditioning.
“I’m just trying to do my best for my team and make sure we win on Fridays.”
Talk to almost any Carson player, and you’ll hear the same mantra. They all know there is no “I” in team. To a man, every player on the squad wants to wipe out the disappointment of the 2012 season which saw the Senators go 4-5 overall and 0-4 in league after three straight league/division titles.
Cooper started the season paired with Aaron Cowee, who suffered a high ankle sprain against McQueen, and will miss a couple of more games. Now, Cooper is teamed with Jesse Knight. Cooper has remained at left guard despite the injury to Cowee, and Roman believes he’s best suited there.
“In our offense, we pull the guards a lot,” Roman said. “He fits what a prototypical guard is (in our offense). He is our best lineman. He knows the techniques. He is good enough to play tackle if we need him there.”
“It’s a lot of fun (pulling),” Cooper said. “It helps that we’ve run a similar offense since my freshman season. We just learn more (every year).”
Cooper is now part of a five-man rotation at defensive tackle with Nevin Elliott, Brandon Mandoki, Chase Banta and Jesse Medina.
“Initially, our plan was to rotate Cliff Coston, Cowee, Medina and Cooper at those two inside spots,” Roman said. “We’ve lost three of those players (Cowee, Medina and Coston to injury), so we’ve had to move other players into that rotation. One of the thing about Andy is that he has a great first step off the ball. I’m sure basketball helped with that.”
Cooper readily admits that he’s probably a stronger offensive player, but that he enjoys defense more.
“On offense you can make your block, but if somebody else misses a block, the play doesn’t go anywhere and everybody looks bad,” Cooper said. “I think on defense you can make a bigger difference; stand out more.”
Cooper was especially effective against McQueen’s 6-2 245-pound Sione Asi. The 6-1 230-pound Cooper more than held his own despite giving up some height and weight.
“Coop battled him all game long on both sides of the ball and did a great job,” Roman said. “I think people took notice of that.”
“It was my best game,” Cooper said. “The atmosphere of that game was so intense, it drives you to perfection. It definitely had an effect on how I played.”
Unlike many of his teammates who want to play at the next level, Cooper said his football career is likely over when Carson plays its final game of the 2013 season. He’s looking in to attending UC Davis, San Diego State and the University of Colorado where he plans to pursue a degree in medicine and be a surgeon.
“My path (in college) is more academic than sports,” said Cooper, who has a 4.6 GPA and has four AP classes. “It’s always been a dream of mine to help people. I think it’s a good path for me.”
And, if he pursues his medical studies with the same physical and mental toughness he approaches football, his future patients will be in good hands.