While Cooper has improved each of their first 5 years as a program, this past season was athe most memorable one for Coach Randy Borchers and his 5A Cooper Jaguars. The Jags won a school record 13 games and made it all the way to the State Championship game, where they fell 34-20 to Bowling Green. Success breeds more success though and Coach Borchers is already seeing the benefits of the deep post season run.
"Obviously us having such a good season last year has built our numbers," said Coach Borchers. "We’ve got a lot of sophomores coming up and the excitement around our school and expectations of the program have gone way up."
A big reason for the success that Cooper had last year was a great senior class that included quarterback Tyler Morris and running back AJ Collins.
"Tyler Morris was the kid that could make it all happen and we had AJ Collins, who was a great running back. We were able to release him out of the backfield and let him get some yards for us receiving."
With those two gone, Coach Borchers knows he will have to look elsewhere for offensive production this season.
"We will replace Tyler Morris with Will Ludwick who has been our back up the past two years," said Coach Borchers. "He’s more of a pocket passer for us and really reads the defense well. He’s not as mobile so that will change up our offense a little bit but Will will be good for us at the quarterback position."
Replacing AJ Collins will be Avery Bricking who started at fullback the past two years. Bricking is a guy who really stepped up for the Jags during the post season this past season and with more carries, should be expected to become a bigger part of the offense in 2013.
"He had some big runs for us last season," said Coach Borchers. "Avery should be able to step up and do a good job for us there."
If there is any strength of the offense however, it will be at the receiver position, led by one of the better two way athletes in Northern Kentucky in senior Aaron Morgan.
"Most of our receivers are back. We have Aaron Morgan, Richie Pauls, as well as Cory Fussinger and Tanner Kissels back and we add Brandon Youngblood so we feel like we’re pretty strong at the receiver position," Coach Borchers said when asked about the offense.
The biggest question mark will be on both lines as they lost Drew Shelton, Taylor Centers, and Dustin Mitchell.
"We lost some great athletes and great kids on both sides of the ball on the line," said Coach Borchers. "That’s our biggest question mark right now and what we’re really focused on."
Despite the loss of players over the years to graduation, defense has been one of the biggest things that has been a constant with this Cooper program. This year, however, the Jaguars enter the season as that side of the ball being the biggest area of concern.
"We talked to our kids a couple times over the past week and told them that we kind of hung our hat on defense over the years and right now that’s our biggest question mark."
A couple guys that will be counted on to step up not only with their leadership this season, but also their play on defense are linebacker Avery Bricking, defensive back Aaron Morgan, safety Cory Fussinger, and safety/corner Richie Pauls.
"Aaron Morgan might be one of the best coverage corners in the area," said Coach Borchers. "We have a lot of our skill guys back but obviously our front 4 is a question mark. Those guys wrecked a lot of havoc last season. We just have to find 4 to 6 guys that we can put up there (on the line) and have success with."
As far as the Jaguars schedule goes, Coach Borchers has put together another challenging schedule for his team that will challenge them and prepare them for what he hopes is another deep post season run.
"We could be anywhere from 5-0 to 0-5 heading in to district play but in the grand scheme of things it means nothing," said Coach Borchers. "The reason we play such a tough non-district schedule is to prepare us for district play."
Cooper will open up with county rival Ryle, then play defending 2A state champion Newport Catholic, then take on other county rival Boone County.
"After those three we play Campbell Co, then Simon Kenton who could be the top team in 6A this year, and finish (the year) with Dixie Heights," said Coach Borchers. "We know we’ve got a tough non-district schedule but our biggest thing is we have a lot of new faces and young kids so we have to stay healthy and get better each week."
Despite the tough schedule, Coach Borchers has the same expectations that he’s maintained throughout his tenure at Cooper – "Win the next game."
"Everyone wants us to compete for the district and make a run in the playoffs but right now we’re just worried about Ryle and after that Newcath and we will see how the rest of the season goes."
Cooper will start their season August 23rd with Ryle.
Players to watch:
Will Ludwick (QB/DE) - The senior signal caller will move over to the quarterback position this year from tight end and finally get his chance to shine after being the back up the past two seasons. Will isn’t as mobile as Tyler Morris was, but the Cooper faithful should expect a passing game to be more prevalent this season with Ludwick.
Avery Bricking (RB/LB) - Bricking is a big bruising back that moves to Rb from FB. Bricking doesn’t have the same elusiveness as Collins did, but runs hard and should be the type of back that it takes multiple defenders to take down. Bricking will also start at linebacker on defense and be counted on to take pressure off the new front 4. . Bricking rushed for 376 yards last year on just 29 carries to go along with 90 tackles on defense, which was good for 2nd on the team.
Aaron Morgan (WR/DB) - Morgan is one of the better two way athletes in the Northern Kentucky area and will be counted on to make an impact once again on both sides of the ball. Aaron is coming off hernia surgery, but is expected to be fine and be able to pick up right off where he left off last season. Expect a lot of passes opposite of Morgan, as he had 7 interceptions last season for over 250 yards returning. Morgan also racked up over 750 yards receiving. If he puts up anywhere close to the same numbers, he could be a dark horse for defensive player of the year.
Cory Fussinger (WR/DB) – Fussinger will once again be counted on to go both ways and improve on his 250 receiving yards. Fussinger averaged over 20 yards per catch last season, which makes him a deep threat for Ludwick to look for this season.
Tanner Kissel (WR) - Kissel finished with 119 yards receiving last season and should be counted on to provide more production this season with AJ Collins gone from the passing game out of the backfield.
Brandon Youngblood (Senior WR) - Youngblood is the younger brother of former Cooper star Devante Bradley. Youngblood is very raw and hasn’t played since his frosh year but has nice size at 6’1 and is a very good looking athlete who should be able to use his size and speed to make plays.