Lubbock Cooper have been on a very steady run over the last few years under head coach Max Kattwinkel. Under his tenure, the Pirates have gone 37-11 in the last four years including a deep run to the state quarterfinals in 2013. Based on what he’s seen from his team in spring, Kattwinkel is encouraged that his team can continue on that track of consistency.
“We’ve got a good group of kids trying to buy in to what we do with our culture,” he said. “We have a good coaching staff but the bottom line, it’s the kids and I feel like they’re hungry for success.”
A big part of the success from 2016 came from quarterback Jarrett Doege, who threw for over 3,633 yards and 33 touchdowns last year and is now at Bowling Green in Ohio to start his college career. One of Kattwinkel’s pressing tasks is finding a guy to step in Doege’s shoes.
“Jarrett is a huge loss for us,” Kattwinkel said of his former quarterback, “He’s honestly the toughest player I’ve ever coached. He did a great job and was a great leader for us and he’ll have a good career at the next level.”
Kattwinkel did say that there is an open competition between four players for that starting job. Trey Garlett, Doege’s backup from last season is considered the leader at the moment but he’ll have competition this spring.
Brenden Mehl, a talented transfer from Muleshoe, is competing for the job along Rilee Keane, the younger brother of former Cooper quarterback Stanton Keane and Cole Carter, who saw time at wide receiver last year and who Kattwinkel calls “one of our best athletes.” No matter who starts for the Pirates on September 1 against Amarillo High, Kattwinkel is confident that whoever steps into that job will be ready. He also hinted that there might be a twist involved as well.
“We’re going to find someone for that spot are because the four are all really talented and each bring something to the table,” he said of his future starter. “It may even be a platoon system next year but we feel good about the guys that are competing for the job.”
One known commodity that the Pirates will have this year according to Kattwinkel is second team all-district running back Elijah Boyd. He, along with Garret Maxson, could be a dynamic force in the backfield and Kattwinkel said it’s a position he feels really good about.
What’s stood out to the fifth-year head coach this spring, however, is the physicality his team has shown.
“We’re showing emotion, getting after it and it’s been really physical to the point as a coach where you need to reel them back in a little bit,” Kattwinkel said, “That’s always a good thing to see instead of trying to bring that out in them.”
He also knows the Pirates will have a challenging road to even get back to the postseason as Lubbock Coronado, Lubbock Monterey and Abilene Cooper all made it to the regional semifinals in 2016. But as he’s always been, Kattwinkel is confident that his team can emerge and break through yet again.
“We’re just trying to get our kids to play the best football at the right time. We’re going to have to battle that again this year and make sure we come through district in one piece and if we do that, I think we have a great chance of making another run.”
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