People know the Cooper Jaguars football team can throw the ball well with the likes of quarterback Cam O’Hara, tight end Austin Alexander and wide receiver Isaiah Johnson.
But the Jaguars hoped to add some balance and may have found it in the 41-7 win over the county rival Conner Cougars on Friday. Sophomore running back Keagan Maher rushed for 162 yards and three touchdowns as the Jaguars put up 268 yards on the ground.
“We talked to Keagan this week. We told him to be patient. It was going to come,” said Randy Borchers, Cooper head coach. “They were selling out trying to take away the pass on us. They did a good job of taking Isaiah out of the game, taking away the deep ball for us. Our guys stayed patient. We were able to hit some big runs and hit some quick ones.”
O’Hara added 91 yards rushing on eight carries and completed 15-of-21 passes for 143 yards. Alexander caught seven passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns, including a dazzling 50-yarder on a tipped pass in the third quarter.
“Last week (against Highlands), we rushed for minus-13. This week we were running the ball. We were able to move it,” said Jack Lonaker, Cooper offensive lineman. “I think it really makes us happy as a unit. We really needed this win.”
Defensively, Cooper held Conner just 144 yards of total offense. Cougar quarterback and leading rusher Wyatt Hatfield ran for just 36 yards.
“We knew we had to contain (Hatfield),” Borchers said. “Every time the ball is snapped to him, I cringe because I know the kid can make some plays. I felt like we did a good of containing him and keep him from getting going.”
Conner took the opening kickoff and moved down to the Cooper 34. But the Cougars fumbled the ball there and Cooper senior defensive lineman Mason Baesel recovered it for the game’s lone turnover.
“I think it was really big to get the momentum going,” Baesel said. “We were still coming out firing on all cylinders. But we could have been stronger fighting harder. We worked all week on squeezing down, reading keys, staying down, staying in our gaps. I feel like we stayed true to that almost all of the game and it really helped us.”
The Jaguars did not score any points off the turnovers, but their athleticism ultimately took over, especially as Conner lost linebackers Ben Fay and Adam Duncan to injuries. Ryker Campbell put the Jaguars on the board with a four-yard touchdown run with 1:14 left in the first quarter.
Maher took over in the second quarter, scoring all three touchdowns to help Cooper build a 28-0 halftime lead. The first two came from two and 17 yards and the third came on the first play from scrimmage for 40 yards.
“I just hit the gas and go,” Maher said. “I have speed. I’m not very big so I have to use that to my advantage. It takes pressure off you knowing you have other playmakers around you.”
Conner put together a nice drive in the third quarter to avert the shutout. A near fumble inside the five almost halted things, but Hatfield picked up the loose ball and scored from from four yards out to make it 34-7 Cooper after three quarter.
“We have to get back to the drawing board,” said Dave Trosper, Conner head coach. “You hope you don’t get the injury plague in mass numbers. But we got it (Friday) and it showed. We came back in the second half, made some adjustments, had to move some personnel around. I’m proud of our kids for fighting to the end and that’s what Conner football is all about.”
Alexander added another touchdown in the fourth quarter to make the final score. He took a pass near the left sideline then spun back toward the middle for the 12-yard touchdown.
Both teams continue district action Thursday at 7 p.m. Cooper travels to Scott (2-4) and Conner plays host to Dixie Heights (2-4).
JAGUARS 41, COUGARS 7
COOPER — 7-21-6-7 — 41
CONNER — 0-0-7-0 — 7
(Cooper) Ryker Campbell 4-yard run (1:14) Carson Taylor kick
(Cooper) Keagan Maher 2-yard run (7:22) Taylor kick
(Cooper) Maher 17-yard run (4:16) Taylor kick
(Cooper) Maher 40-yard run (2:29) Taylor kick
(Cooper) Austin Alexander 50-yard pass from Cam O’Hara (7:29) run failed
(Conner) Wyatt Hatfield 4-yard run (1:07) Andrew Herron kick
(Cooper) Austin Alexander 12-yard pass from Cam O’Hara (6:05) Taylor kick
Passing Yards: Cooper 143 (O’Hara 15/21), Conner 76 (Hatfield 10/22)
Rushing Yards: Cooper 268 (Maher 20-162, O’Hara 8-91, Campbell 2-16, Lee 1-2, Hartman 1-(negative 3), Conner 68 (Hatfield 12-36, Abernathy 13-32)
Receiving: Cooper 143 (Alexander 7-110, Campbell 3-9, Johnson 1-16, Ewell 2-11, Maher 2-(minus 3), Conner 76 (Ruzindana-3-39, Abernathy-3-13, Bailey-1-18, Caplinger-2-4, Fay 1-7)
Turnovers: Cooper 0, Conner 1
Penalties: Cooper 8-75, Conner 5-25
Records: Cooper 5-2, Conner 4-3