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Lots of buzz around 12-0 Hornets
Cook's Shannon Brown scores during action against McIntosh County Academy Friday night. - photo by For The Times


Buford’s win over Callaway on Friday, coupled with losses from Gainesville, Flowery Branch and White County, leaves the Wolves as the only area team still alive as the high school football state playoffs head into the quarterfinals.

Buford, which is back in the third round for the 11th straight season, will play host to the Cook Hornets at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Tom Riden Stadium in Buford.

Here’s a look at Hornets, champions of Region 1-AA:

 WHERE'S COOK?: The Hornets will be traveling about 230 miles north to get to Buford on Friday. Cook High School is in Adel, a small town just off Interstate 75 about 30 miles north of Valdosta.

 NO STRANGER TO PLAYOFFS: Like Buford, Cook has been a mainstay in the Class AA playoffs for more than a decade. The Hornets haven’t missed the postseason since 1999, and though they haven’t won a state championship since 1949, they’ve had their share of success. They’ve been to the quarterfinals six times and the semifinals three times since 2000. However, this year is only the second time they’ve topped 11 wins in a season — a testament to the toughness of their schedule.

 TOUGH SLATE: For the first time since 2001, Cook emerged unbeaten from its regular season schedule, a feat made all the more impressive by the fact that every team from Region 1-AA is still alive in the playoffs. Of the eight teams still playing in the Class AA playoffs, half of them come from Region 1 (Cook, Fitzgerald, Brooks County and Thomasville). Thomasville gave the Hornets a fight in a 15-9 loss, but Cook beat Fitzgerald and Brooks by a combined score of 96-26.

Of Cook’s 12 wins, nine have come against teams that made the playoffs, six have come against teams that reached the second round, four have come against teams that are still playing — including a 15-9 win over Class AAAAA Colquitt County — and three have come against Class AAA playoff teams.

 PERFECT UNDER COFER: Cook coach Ken Cofer has wasted little time making a statement in his first year as a head coach.

“I just think they’re tired of coming in fourth,” Cofer told the Thomasville Times-Enterprise. “I stood up at the sports banquet and said, ‘It’s time to win championships.’ I got a lot of ‘amens’ from mamas and daddies.

“I just think our kids are tired of finishing fourth in this region, not that fourth is a bad thing. We’ve been to the quarterfinals and semifinals as a No. 4 seed. We’re just tired of having to do that. We want to be a No. 1 seed. We want a region championship. We want that state championship.”

In Cofer’s first game, the Hornets stunned Colquitt County, a quarterfinalist in the state’s largest classification, and Cook hasn’t lost since. Along the way, the Hornets won their first region title since 2001.

“Our first goal was a region championship and our second goal is a state championship, and it don't matter who we have to go through,” Cofer told the Valdosta Daily Times after last week’s 41-7 win over McIntosh County Academy. “We are going to work and we are going to try for that state championship.”

Cofer was promoted from offensive coordinator in February after former coach Mac Thompson died of a heart attack at 39 years old.

BIG, BAD BROWN & FRIENDS: Any discussion of Cook standouts starts with running back/linebacker Shannon Brown. The 6-foot-2, 240-pound senior is one of the most highly touted linebacker prospects in the country and is committed to Alabama. He’s also a key part of a Hornets running game that racked up 343 yards last week.

Junior quarterback Zach Folsom provides the offensive balance in his second year as a starter. He completed 13 of 20 passes for 200 yards last week and has thrown for 2,300 yards and 26 touchdowns with only six interceptions this year.

While the Hornets operate exclusively from the shotgun, Cofer said it’s not an “east-west” offense.

“Some would call it a spread offense,” he said. “I don’t really like that term.

“We want to run downhill. That’s the mentality and the attitude we want to have.”

The screen passing game is also a big part of the Cook offense, as is a quick pace. Cofer said the Hornets’ goal is to run 60-65 offensive plays in every game.

Balance is another key component, not only in run-pass ratio, but in terms of the players that touch the ball.

Trey Register (6-0, 185), a Division-I prospect, is dangerous as a receiver and as a runner. He’ll also take snaps in the Hornets’ version of the Wildcat offense.

Other players to watch include running back Clifford Miles and wide receiver Clifford Pettiford.

The Hornets average 36.1 points per game and yield 11.2. They average 200 yards per game through the air while rushing for about 185.

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