WALLINGFORD >> With the post-game interviews completed and more than his share of congratulatory pats on the back from teammates and fans alike, Hillhouse’s dynamic senior running back slowly made his way towards to the team bus. Certainly there must have been more than one person who felt like shrieking out in joy at the realization that Harold Cooper’s days of tormenting the two Wallingford high schools are now a thing of the past.
Cooper returned a punt for a touchdown, had a TD reception and ran for two more scores to lead the visiting Academics to a 42-2 win over Sheehan in an SCC Division II interdivision game on Thursday night.
Cooper finished with 183 rushing yards on 19 carries to become the sixth player in state history to run for more than 6,000 yards. Nearly a third of those yards were against either Sheehan or Lyman Hall.
“I can’t even say much, I give it all to my line,” Cooper said. “Sheehan is a great team, Lyman Hall is a great team, but it is the fact that my line is great so I give it all to them.”
Cooper faced Lyman Hall and Sheehan once in each of his four seasons with the Academics. Five of his 10 career 200-yard rushing games came against either the Trojans or Titans, and his final rushing totals against the two Wallingford school were a staggering 1,736 yards and 28 touchdowns on 114 carries. When you factor in his receiving and punt return scores, Cooper reached the end zone 30 times against the two Wallingford programs.
“He has been a nightmare since he has been a freshman,” Sheehan coach John Ferrazzi said. “You can tell he works hard, he is well respected and you have to game plan for him. We didn’t want to give up the big play on him. He is going to get his yards and he is going to have even brighter things ahead of him, and I have nothing but good things to say about him.”
Aided by three first-half interceptions and a stop on fourth down Sheehan stayed with Hillhouse for a while.
After a scoreless first quarter Cooper and the Academics began to take over. Cooper had a 27-yard run during an 11-play, 77-yard drive that was capped by a 6-yard scoring pass from Corey Maddox to Paul Niles. Then after Sheehan punted the ball out of bounds earlier in the half, Cooper was able to snare a punt and he raced untouched 51 yards for a touchdown. On the next possession, Cooper caught a 36-yard TD pass from Maddox on fourth down to give Hillhouse a 20-0 lead.
“I told my team I would do anything to get us back to where we were last year, and I got a mindset today of just do anything, a punt return, catches, runs. I’ll do anything for my team,” Cooper said.
Cooper had scoring runs of 6 and 9 yards in the third quarter, and Maddox had a 19-yard touchdown scamper to give the Academics a 42-0 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Sheehan (1-5) got on the board when an errant snap on a punt resulted in a safety.
Brandon Gauthier had six catches for 64 yards and also had five tackles for Sheehan. Jordan Lytle had a team-high six tackles for Sheehan.
Jalen Gardner had eight tackles, and Tarrol Stafford had five tackles for Hillhouse.
Still, the night belonged to Cooper. He joined the select 6,000-yard club on a 24-yard run in the third quarter. He moved into a tie for fifth place in career touchdowns and a tied for seventh in career points in state history.
“He is the best back to ever come out of Hillhouse, period,” Hillhouse coach Reggie Lytle said, “I hate for it to be his senior year because I am going to miss him. He is an excellent kid, very coachable, stays out of trouble. His parents do a good job of staying on him. He has been like a son to me. I have had him since Pop Warner and I wish I had 20 other kids just like him.”
Hillhouse 42, Sheehan 2
Hillhouse 0 20 22 0 0 — 42
Sheehan 0 0 0 2 0 — 2
H—Paul Riles 6 pass from Corey Maddox (kick failed) H—Harold Cooper 51 punt ret H—Harold Cooper 36 pass from Corey Maddox (Maddox run)Third quarter H—Harold Cooper 6 run (Forel Kourouma run) H—Harold Cooper 9 run (Maddox run) H—Corey Maddox 19 run (kick failed) Team records: Sheehan 1-5; Hillhouse 3-3