By ryan jones
As Tim Cooper stood with the rest of his senior teammates at midfield for a few final pictures, he couldn’t help but smile.
Not that anyone would blame him for having a good time. On Western Reserve’s senior night, the versatile player racked up 261 yards from scrimmage and scored all four touchdowns to propel the Blue Devils (6-2) to a 28-6 victory over ITCL Tier 2 rival Southern (5-3).
Cooper said senior night brought a different set of emotions to the game.
“It got to me a little bit before the game,” he said. “It was hard for me to grasp that this was going to be my last game in this stadium. We had our mind made up before the game that we would not accept a loss on senior night. Other than the state playoff game at Massillon last year, this will probably be the most memorable game of my life.”
Western Reserve coach Andy Hake said after starting 0-2 his squad has been forced to take every game seriously.
“If this game tonight against Southern was in week 3, we would have lost,” he said. “We started with two tough teams this year [Cleveland Heights and Malvern] and it wasn’t like we were blown out of those games, but we were down after those losses. It would have been easy to go in the tank, but this senior class is resilient. We’ve put ourselves back into the conversation tonight.”
Cooper carried 25 times for 147 yards and caught five passes for 114 yards. After he scored on a 15-yard run in the first quarter he had his hands all over the second quarter. He scored on runs of 7 and 6 yards, and intercepted Southern’s Luke Griffith in the end zone. The interception was Cooper’s sixth of the season and 19th of his career, one away from a school record.
Mike McKenzie (111 yards rushing) scored Southern’s only TD, racing 45 yards in the first quarter.
Southern coach Mike Skrinjar said he was proud of the effort his team gave.
“That was a physical football team, from the offensive line to the secondary,” he said. “Western Reserve came out and slapped us in the face, but we still got up to play the next play. Games like this are so important when you are building a program like we are. You have to put games like this under your belt to get to where teams like Western Reserve are. This is tough for our seniors who have worked so hard, but they have to more games to make this season memorable.”