By John Lachmann
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Entering 2012, Cooper’s football team had won just 14 games, and none in the postseason.
This season the Jaguars fell just one win short of matching their win total from their first four years combined, and unfortunately for them they also fell one win short of a Class 5A state title.
Bowling Green completed an unbeaten season by taking down Cooper, 34-20 at Feix Field at Western Kentucky University on Saturday.
“I feel bad because I wanted to win for these kids, but for (myself), I don’t feel bad because they gave me the ride of my life,” Cooper coach Randy Borchers said.
The Jaguars put themselves in a hole early as senior quarterback Tyler Morris threw just his sixth interception of the season on the first play from scrimmage, giving Bowling Green the ball at the Cooper 26.
Three plays later the Jaguars were down by six.
“We were very nervous early on,” Morris said. “(Bowling Green) has been here before, we’ve never had anything like this before.”
Cooper lost a fumble on its second play from scrimmage, but the Jaguars’ defense tightened up and prevented the Purples from extending their lead.
“I told all the reporters this week and I told our kids this week that my biggest fear was how we were going to come out and handle the pressure, and the awe of everything,” Borchers said. “We came out, we had a turnover right off the bat and they scored. We had a great kickoff return and then we turn it right over again.”
Cooper ran the ball eight straight times for 54 yards on its next drive, capped off by a one-yard Morris run that tied the score at six. Both teams missed their extra points.
Bowling Green lulled the Jaguars’ defense to sleep with four straight conservative running plays before busting out a 36-yard TD pass from junior Devin Hayes to senior wide receiver Spencer Renfro.
Again the Purples missed the PAT, but they led 12-6 with 1:46 left in the opening quarter.
Bowling Green extended the lead on a 45-yard strike from Hayes to junior Nacarius Fant midway through the second quarter, making it 19-6.
Cooper cut the lead to six with 1:09 left in the half on a 12-yard pass from Morris to junior Aaron Morgan. Morris threw five straight times on that drive, completing four for 53 yards.
But Bowling Green answered to start the second half, as junior Blue Tisdale broke a 56-yard run on the Purples’ first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, and he capped off the drive with a five-yard run to make it 27-13.
Cooper did trim the deficit to seven again late in the third quarter on an 80-yard, nine-play drive that was aided by three encroachment calls.
Once again, Bowling Green increased the margin to two TDs, this time on an 11-play drive that gave the Purples a 34-20 lead and also took six minutes off the clock.
Cooper responded by driving 63 yards, but Morris was sacked at the Bowling Green 21 and threw three straight incompletions to seal the game.
Morris finished 14-for-27 for 153 yards and a touchdown, and he scored two TDs on the ground. Morgan caught nine of those passes for 101 yards and one score, giving his 835 receiving yards and eight touchdowns on the season.
The Cooper running game, responsible for much of the team’s success, was held to 95 yards and an average of 3.1 yards per carry.
Tisdale carved up the Jaguars for 140 rushing yards and three touchdowns, and Hayes threw for 175 yards and a pair of TDs.
“I told our kids and I told people all week we were going to have to play almost a perfect game, and you get two turnovers in the first three minutes, you’re now fighting an uphill battle,” Borchers said. “We still had out chances, we just couldn’t get a stop when we needed to and we couldn’t close the deal.”
BG-Tisdale 5 run (kick failed)
C-Morris 1 run (kick failed)
BG-Renfro 36 pass from Hayes (kick failed)
BG-Fant 45 pass from Hayes (Swierkosz kick)
C-Morgan 12 pass from Morris (Turner kick)
BG-Tisdale 4 run (Hayes run)
C-Morris 13 run (Turner kick)
BG-Tisdale 2 run (Swierkosz kick)
RECORDS: Bowling Green 15-0, Cooper 13-2.
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