I knew it was a huge
game with year-long bragging rights on the line, but as it was told to me, it
was even bigger than that. People would tailgate beforehand and exchange
friendly promises of victory and eat barbecue before entering Shotwell Stadium.
Many of the parents of Cooper High School students actually attended
Abilene High in their youth. Kids that played pee-wee football on the same team
wouldn't meet on the field again until they were on opposite teams.
Abilene is big enough
to have three 5A schools, but small enough that everyone knows each other.
Before I got to the
tailgate last Friday, I stopped and got some beer just in case that type of
behavior was permitted. As it turns out, some beer wasn't nearly enough. As my girlfriend
and I approached the tailgate I could tell these were my type of people. Two
smokers were going and both were filled with a various meats. People from all
walks of life were there and were as friendly as people can be. I got lost
in conversation, brats, and beer, only to realize I was in Abilene when an SUV
parked nearby, it's hood covered in hailstone dents.
"You see that a
lot, people get their insurance checks and just pocket the money," Monte
Joe told me. I told him that's about all I know about Abilene, it hails there.
Well that, and the
people that live there love football.
Abilene fans were
still proudly wearing their state championship shirts from when Herschel Sims
lead them to victory over Katy in the 2009 Division II state championship.
Though it remains to be seen how far this Eagle team will go, they do have some
talent on hand. At the tailgate I met Tulsa commit Keaven Lucas' uncle. A
pleasant man battling cancer, Mr. Ray is a fixture in the community, having
coached many of the big game's players from both teams. He was effusive in
praise of his nephew, a player I'd only heard of recently as his stock has
started to align with his ability and production.
When I asked what made
Lucas so good, the word that kept coming back to me was "natural."
Natural hands, movements and understanding of the position. In talking to Monte
about him, he told me he thought Lucas is too big a prospect for Tulsa and to
back that up, he told me that Texas Tech is giving him a very hard look. With
sure hands and shiftiness, Joe thinks Lucas will be a good player on the next
level as a slot receiver. The 5-11, 175-pound prospect has 54 receptions for
860 yards on the season after adding a whopping 16 catches for 144 yards
I was also excited to
see Abilene's 2014 defensive end, Jake McMillon. Abilene beat Hebron, the
high school of 2014 Texas offer Jamal Adams, earlier in the year in a hard
fought game. After that game, Adams' father and I were talking and all he could
do was brag about "that d-end from Abilene." I looked into it some
and found that in McMillon, Abilene had a hard-nosed lineman with a big frame
and good athleticism. I found Jake's sophomore highlights to be impressive, and
when he sent me junior highlights from his first four games I saw what I wanted
to: a player still progressing and continuing to get bigger and faster while
continuing to possess a motor that will set him apart from equally talented
The 6-3, 240-pound end
didn't disappoint on the night, either. He had a productive game with four solo
tackles, one tackle for loss and two sacks. Those two sacks are really
impressive when you consider he was chasing 2014 Texas pledge Lorenzo Joe.
"He's quick, really quick," McMillon said with emphasis about the
McMillon has the look
of a BCS level defensive end, and I wouldn't be surprised if a school like
Texas Tech was his first offer, though I can definitely see him somewhere like
OU. Not to compare him to Dusty Dvoracek off the field, but with his large
build that will only continue to add muscle, I can see McMillon playing gaps up
and down the line. Consider me a fan of his, and I'll continue to monitor his
growth. Texas seems to have a plan at defensive end already, so I don't know if
they'll pursue him, but he has the look of a player that can help a big team
win big games.
A final thing on
McMillon, he did attend the Texas spring game and he tells me he'd prefer to
play his college ball in Texas.
The first thing
McMillon told me about Lorenzo Joe was also the number one thing that
stood out to me: he's quick. This was great to see because it was the
number one thing I wanted to see. As a wide receiver prospect, straight line
speed is very overrated while short burst quickness is the opposite. At a long
6-2 and 175 pounds, Joe is a long strider that's plenty fast once he gets
going, but I didn't know how good his close quarter quickness is.
It's funny, I saw
exactly what I wanted to see on a play where he actually lost a yard or two,
but his ability to escape the grasp of defensive lineman while being seven
yards deep was testament to his suddenness and slipperiness as an athlete.
As a wide receiver
playing quarterback, I saw everything I wanted to out of Joe, other than his
hands, but I'm told he has great hands and since Texas offered him at a camp
where all he did was run routes and catch the ball, I'm inclined to believe
he's natural in that regard. As a high school quarterback Joe showed great
leadership and poise. Though he's a wide receiver in college all the way
- his preference by the way - he showed good zip and timing on some
of his throws. He's definitely a candidate to throw in trick play scenarios. He
was a respectable 16 of 27 for 185 yards passing and added 57 yards on the
ground. He also had two touchdown's through the air, and one on the ground. Not
bad for a junior playing out of position in the biggest non-playoff game of the
Joe's lean frame is
the perfect starter kit for achieving grown-ass man status. By the time he's
195 pounds he'll be ideally suited for bullying press coverage, going over the
middle to make the tough catch, and using his size to fight for the ball in
traffic. I can see him as an all around wide receiver, capable of playing
inside and out.
Because he plays
quarterback rather than wide receiver, Joe's highlights won't serve as a tool
to fire up the Texas recruiting fan base, but he's a player to be excited about
While Lucas, McMillon
and Joe received most of my attention throughout the game, I found myself
intrigued by the supporting cast of players that provided the crowd of 10,000
with a wonderfully entertaining production. It was a get your
popcorn type game that lived
up to its billing.
In a game that looked
like Abilene might win easily, Cooper battled back and took the lead with a
very efficient drive late in the fourth quarter but couldn't hold on. Abilene
quarterback Evin Abbe returned the favor by throwing a game winning
touchdown that was actually tipped with three seconds left.
The final score:
Abilene 31, Abilene Cooper 27.
One final highlight on
the night was having beers with subscriber dj777, not only before the game, but
at halftime as well. Thanks for reaching out to me, buddy.