East Hall quarterback Clete Cooper connected on all but four pass attempts in the Vikings’ 34-28 win over Woodland last Friday, but his defining moment in the game according to East Hall coach Michael Perry actually came as a result of one of his incompletions.
Leading 28-20 in the fourth quarter, Cooper missed on a pass that ended an East Hall drive and forced the Vikings offense to the sidelines. As the defense took the field, Perry had his eye on the sophomore quarterback.
“Instead of sulking and feeling sorry for himself, he manned up on the sideline,” Perry said.
Cooper came right back out on the next drive, saw a favorable matchup pre-snap for wide receiver Mon Prather and aired it out for his second passing touchdown of the day.
“We checked the fade to Mon and it was just there,” Cooper said.
The score was one of 24 completions Cooper made in the game on 28 attempts for 325 yards to go along with the two touchdowns — a performance good enough for Cooper to be named this week’s Times Player of the Week.
But for Cooper, picking up the first win of the season for the Vikings was more important than any personal stats.
“It felt good,” he said of his first victory as East Hall’s starting quarterback. “I went home that night, and I just felt really good on the win. I just hope to carry it on to the next week.”
If recent history is any indication, he probably will.
Cooper has improved his completion percentage, yardage total and touchdown count with each game this season, trends that he says were all born in the film room. The more time he’s spent studying opponents tape, the more comfortable he’s grown in reading opposing defenses on the fly.
Against Woodland, Cooper knew what was going to happen before the snap on a number of occasions.
“It just clicked,” he said.
Cooper’s play and football IQ have developed at rates faster than even Perry could have expected.
The first-year East Hall head coach said offensive success in his system is predicated heavily on the quarterback’s understanding and development in the offense. And while Cooper has only started three games, Perry has already seen enough to know the young quarterback has what it takes to succeed.
Perry has coached a number of talented quarterbacks who have gone on to play at higher levels — current Houston Texans starter Deshaun Watson most notable among them. But in Cooper, he also sees something special.
“By the time he’s older, he’s going to be a pretty dang good quarterback,” Perry said. “I will say this about him, for him being so young with this completion percentage, I’ve never had one at this point be that good.”