Jags take it to defending Class 2A State Champ, Holy Cross
The second game of the Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown at Simon Kenton featured the defending class 2A state champion Holy Cross Indians and the 5A Cooper Jaguars.
Both teams were riding highs coming in to week 2 of Northern Kentucky football. Holy Cross, led by Travis Gabbard, routed Dayton 69-20. Cooper, led by AJ Collins, knocked off county foe, Ryle, 35-6.
That high for Holy Cross wouldn’t last long as they were completely dominated in the not only the first quarter, but the first half in general.
The game started with an onside kick by Cooper and it looked as if Holy Cross might be able to capitalize on good field position. That wouldn’t be the case at all, however.
After a 3 –and – out for Holy Cross on their first possession, it took Cooper just three plays to get on the board. The drive started with a Tyler Morris to Tyler Brooks 40 yard hook up on the first play. Next it would be Morris to Jr Avery Bricking for 12 yards. The three play, 71 yard drive would be capped off with an AJ Collins 19 yard scamper.
While the offense was busy flexing their muscles, senior Dustin Mitchell was harassing Holy Cross QB Travis Gabbard from his d-line position. Mitchell had 2 sacks on the first two possessions. The following play after his second sack would prove to be a back breaker for the HC offense.
With the Indians driving and in Cooper territory, Gabbard was pressured again by Mitchell and threw an interception, which Aaron Morgan would return 80 yards for a touchdown and 14-0 Cooper lead.
“Those two are playing great right now. Dustin has done a great job up front.” Said Coach Borchers. “We knew they wanted to throw a lot and we were able to get pressure with him to disrupt what they like to do. They couldn’t block him.”
The offense would never recover from here and Mitchell and Morgan led the defense to 3 and out after 3 and out. Special teams woes then reared it’s ugly head for Holy Cross.
After a huge return by Tyler Morris to the Holy Cross 34, it took them just three plays to get in the end zone once again. This time it was the combination of Morris and Collins. After an incomplete pass on 2nd down, Morris found his running back, Collins, across the middle for a 32 yard td strike to make the score 21-0 with 3:21 left in the 1st quarter.
Collins finished with 68 yards on 12 carries.
Another Holy Cross punt. Another Morris return. Another Cooper touchdown 3 plays later. This time Morris had a 42 yard gain in which he made just about every Indian on the field miss, before plowing over a defensive back to get down to the 2. Next play it was AJ Collins turn again as he took it in, untouched, from 2 yards out. 28-0 Cooper with 1:28 remaining in the 1st quarter.
“Those two (Morris and Collins) are gamers. They may not look like the most athletic or quickest guys, but they play hard and battle every play.” Said Coach Borchers of Cooper after the game. “They both run hard and have fun while they’re out there. You know every time you give them the ball, there’s a chance they break the play.”
Morris finished with 92 yards on just 3 carries and also had 99 yards on 5 of 8 passing.
On Travis Gabbard’s very next pass, he once again met Mr. Morgan of the Jags as he picked off the Indian signal caller and took it all the way back to the HC 3.
Morgan’s two interceptions tonight are why Coach Borchers likes to put Aaron on the opposing teams’ best offensive player.
“He’s done a pretty good job shutting down who ever we put him on these past two weeks.”
The Cooper offense sputtered a bit with a 2 yard loss but Morris was able to re-group the troops and find his jr TE , William Ludwig for a 5 yard touchdown connection. New quarter, but same story on the first play.
With the score 35-0 just 6 seconds in to the second quarter, things didn’t get much better for the Indians on either side of the ball. Gabbard was able to lead the Indians down to the Cooper 38 with short passes to Beal and Pouncy but would turn it over on downs.
The Jags would tack on two more scores with a Tyler Morris 48 yard touchdown run and Collins 13 yard run and head in to the half up 49-0.
Just how dominant was Cooper in the first half? The Jags racked up 259 total yards to Holy Cross’ 41, all passing, due to the negative yardage the Cooper defense forced the Indians in to.
The second half consisted of the running clock rule and a lot of the younger guys getting playing time in a game that was expected to be the best of the night in the area. Holy Cross didn’t get on the scoreboard until Gabbard found his tight end, Will Knockleman with 4:20 remaining in the 4th quarter.
I guess the question now is: Just how good is Cooper? After an impressive win over Ryle and seeing them up close and personal absolutely destroy a very talented 2A Holy Cross team, I am a believer this team could be one of the top 3 or 4 teams in Northern Kentucky.
Coach Borchers was quick to dismiss any credit, however.
“We’re not worried about that. Biggest difference right now is our kids are playing with confidence and we go in to each game believing we can win and we should win. It goes back to last year with our win over Conner when our team and program really started jelling.”
Cooper will look to beat Boone for the first time in program history next week.