UNION – The Cooper High School football team returns eight starters on each side of the ball as the Jaguars try to build on a strong 2014 in which they went 9-5 and advanced to the state semifinals in Class 5A.
Two main obstacles stand in their way as they look to take the next step: They have to replace starting quarterback Billy Prickett and they are now in Class 6A, the state’s largest class, in the new KHSAA alignment.
“This season we make the jump to 6A and our 2015 schedule is arguably the toughest schedule Cooper has had in its eight years of existence,” said head coach Randy Borchers. “The schedule features national power Highlands High School and other perennial state title contenders such as Newport Central Catholic, Simon Kenton, Lexington Catholic, and 2014 6A state runner-up Dixie Heights.”
Prickett threw for 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. Replacing him will not be an instant process this fall, Borchers said. In the early going, the team will rely on its workhorse running back Torey Cordell-Armstrong, a senior who rushed for 1,752 yards and 16 touchdowns, earning him district player of the year honors.
The starting QB will have several established targets to throw to, led by junior Dante Hendrix, senior Chad Michels, and senior Tyson Jackson. Hendrix had 551 receiving yards and five TDs.
Up front the offensive line will be anchored by three year starter senior Marcus Watson and other returning players include, junior Sander Rocksvag, senior Dalton Mitchell, and senior Kyle Sand.
Defensively the Jaguars return eight starters from last year’s team who held opponents to just 17 points a game. Three of the top tacklers from 2014 are back and include; senior defensive lineman Marcus Watson with 90 1/2 tackles and seven sacks, senior linebacker Seth Keller with 65 1/2 tackles and two interceptions, and his twin brother senior linebacker Aidan Keller with 61 tackles and three interceptions. Defensively, senior defensive back Cole Hicks and senior defensive lineman Elliot Smith both return from season-ending injuries suffered last season and should have a major impact on the defense. Hicks also had three interceptions last season.
Senior lineman Dalton Mitchell had 37 tackles and five sacks a year ago. Rocksvag also returns on the d-line.
Sophomore Justin Schlarman and seniors Justin Parks and Jacob Kuchar are returning starters with Jackson in the secondary. Schlarman posted 47 1/2 tackles.
Top newcomers to look out for initially are junior running back/defensive back Jaden Jackson, sophomore linebacker Nick Meyers and senior defensive back Nathan Brown.
In the newly remodeled KHSAA alignment, Cooper is in a 6A district with county rivals Conner and Ryle. Cooper will also play Boone County late in the year. Cooper hosts Highlands, last year’s Class 4A champion, to start the season on Aug. 21 then goes to Newport Central Catholic Aug. 28.
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