By John Lachmann
Cooper had never won a playoff game entering this postseason.
But the Jaguars are headed to the Class 5A state championship game after a 17-7 win over Harlan County at Davis Memorial Stadium in Baxter on Friday.
“We knew we were going to have a pretty solid team and we knew it was going to be a special group, but having a chance to win a state championship is more than anyone expected,” Cooper coach Randy Borchers said.
The Black Bears took the early lead on a seven-yard run by senior Treyvon Long in the first quarter, but Cooper junior Aaron Morgan caught a 75-yard pass from senior Tyler Morris in the second quarter to even the score.
Harlan County drove to the Jaguars’ 9 in the final minute of the first half, but the Black Bears took consecutive illegal formation penalties and eventually threw an interception.
Cooper wasted no time taking the lead when the game resumed after halftime. Morris took a keeper to his right for a 21-yard score with 10:37 left in the third quarter.
The Jaguars’ kicking unit played a major role in the second half. Junior Logan Turner booted a 29-yard field goal on the Jaguars’ next possession, which was extended by a Morris first-down run on third and long.
Turner was also 2-for-2 on extra points.
Senior punter Zach Neumann got the team out of a jam early in the fourth quarter with a 48-yard punt when Cooper went three-and-out and was pinned at its own 4.
“Obviously when you’ve got a team that moves the ball on the ground like they do, field position is huge – that extra 10-15 yards (on the punt) was huge,” Borchers said.
Morris also killed a Harlan County drive by intercepting a pass at his own 1 with 4:37 left in regulation. The Black Bears got the ball back but missed a 40-yard field goal with 1:26 remaining to seal it.
Cooper will play Bowling Green at 4 p.m. on Dec. 1 in the state title game in Bowling Green. The Jaguars were 0-1 in the playoffs entering this year, with their lone loss coming in the first round last season.
at HARLAN 7-0-0-0—7
HC-Long 7 run (Wilson kick)
C-Morgan 75 pass from Morris (Turner kick)
C-Morris 21 run (Turner kick)
C-Turner FG 29
RECORDS: Cooper 13-1, Harlan County 11-3.
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