Cooper High School has been such a staple in the Texas state football playoffs that hardly anyone can remember the last time the Cougars didn’t qualify for the tournament. Most of this year’s Cooper roster was still in diapers the last time it happened in 2006.
So despite losing six starters on each side of the ball from last year’s playoff team, sixth-year head coach Aaron Roan fully expects another season that goes past 10 weeks from his team in 2023.
“We want to bring our best each day and each week to improve in the pre-season and compete for a playoff spot and a district championship,” said Roan, whose record in six seasons is 36-21. “Anything is possible when you get into the postseason, and we want to make a deep run.”
The Cougars lost several standouts on both sides of the ball from a team that reached the area round of the playoffs in 2022 but were especially hard hit with the loss of quarterback Chris Warren, wide receivers Cameron Herron, Malik Jackson, D’Andre Ralston, and tight end Amanda McGowan. However, Roan feels good about junior quarterback Austin Cummins taking over as the leader of the offense, and he’s got one of the best running backs in this part of the state in junior Daniel Bray (731 yards and 10 touchdowns rushing on 110 carries and another 303 yards and one touchdown on 22 catches). Bray – who has two seasons left – has already received official offers from Texas Tech, Iowa, North Texas, and Texas-San Antonio. He’s one of the fastest backs in the state and is listed as a top track and field prospect in the Class of 2026.
“Daniel just exudes explosiveness,” Roan said. “He can take it for six on any given play. He’s an elusive ball carrier and can outrun opponents in the open field.”
Roan is also excited about the potential of senior running backs Troneal Robinson and Christian Rico and sophomore wide receiver Jaden Carrillo. Senior wide receiver Jaylen Parker and senior tight end/fullback Clayton Gift also return to an offense that averaged 31.5 points per game in 2022.
An inexperienced quarterback’s best friend is an excellent offensive line and running game, and it appears on paper that the Cougars will have both in 2023. Honorable mention all-district offensive lineman Canaan Fletcher and lettermen Micah Flores, G Carter, Tyce Chociej, and Kayden Bryan are returning up front.
“We have some experience returning at all positions we want to carry over into the 2023 season,” Roan said. “Our offensive line returns several players with experience from last year, and we will rely heavily on that position group, and we have some good depth at running back.”
The Cougars could be special in 2023 on the defensive side of the ball, where the leading returning player is sophomore defensive lineman Dycin Davis, who was the District 2-5A Division II Newcomer of the Year in 2022 as a freshman. Also returning are second-team all-district selections in senior linebacker Eric Tonche, sophomore defensive line Alejandro Ibarra, and junior defensive back Zavian Alexander. Also returning are honorable mention all-district selection in junior defensive back Jeremiah Appel, as well as junior defensive back Xzavian Johnson, senior linebacker Lucas David, senior linebacker Nhoj Henry, junior defensive lineman Esteban Lozano, and junior linebacker Cedric Brooks.
Senior defensive back Noah Santos, junior defensive back Adam Gurule, and sophomore linebacker Cannon Adams are newcomers that Roan expects to play a big part in the Cougars’ defense. But the leader of the defense is, without question, Davis, who already has offers from Baylor, Texas, Iowa, and North Texas. He’s listed among the top defensive ends in the state as a sophomore and should be one of the state’s most heavily recruited pass rushers over the next three years.
“Dycin has a motor that never stops,” Roan said. “He has a big frame that an offensive lineman must account for every play. He can get pressure on the quarterback that we will need to help out a young secondary early in the season.”
The Cougars will kick off their season Thursday night (Aug. 24) at Keller against an Indians team that finished 10-3 and reached the third round of the Class 6A state playoffs. The Indians were third in District 4-6A behind Southlake Carroll and Byron Nelson. After that game, the Cougars will be the home team for the Crosstown Showdown against Abilene High on Sept. 1 at Shotwell Stadium before hosting San Angelo Central in a rematch of an instant classic the Coogs won, 41-38, in overtime last season in San Angelo. Cooper will also take on Lubbock Coronado and Odessa Permian to round out non-district play before beginning District 2-5A Division II play on Thursday, Oct. 5, against Wichita Falls Rider at Shotwell Stadium.
2023 COOPER HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW
Coach (seasons as head coach / overall record): Aaron Roan (5th season / 36-21)
Last season (overall record, district record, district finish): 6-6 overall (3-2, 3rd place in District 2-5A Division II)
Last playoff appearance (year, result):2022 (def. El Paso Andress, 49-20, in bi-district; lost to Grapevine, 38-21, in area round)
Last district championship (year):2020 (6-0 in District 3-5A Division I)
2022 District and Opponents:District 2-5A Division II (Wichita Falls Rider, Amarillo Palo Dura, Plainview, Lubbock High, Abilene Wylie)
Lettermen Returning / Lost: 20/31
Starters Returning: 5/5
Top Returners (name, classification, position, 2022 honors): Dycin Davis, soph, DE (Newcomer of the Year), Eric Tonche, sr, LB (2nd team All-District), Alejandro Ibarra, soph, DL (2nd team All-District); Zavian Alexander, jr, DB (2nd team All-District); Xzavian Johnson, jr, DB; Jeremiah Appel, jr, DB (Honorable Mention All-District); Lucas David, sr, LB; Nhoj Henry, sr, LB; Esteban Lozano, jr, DL; Cedric Brooks, jr, LB; Jaylen Parker, sr, WR; Micah Flores, jr, OL; G Carter, jr, OL; Xanaan Fletcher, sr, OL (Honorable mention All-District); Tyce Chociej, sr, OL; Kayden Bryan, soph, OL; Daniel Bray, jr, RB (2nd team All-District); Clayton Gift, sr, TE/FB; Austin Cummins, jr, QB.
Top Newcomers (name, classification, position):Jaden Carrillo, soph, WR; Christian Rico, sr, RB; Troneal Robinson, sr, RB; Adam Gurule, jr, DB; Cannon Adams, soph, LB; Noah Santos, sr, DB.
- Coach Roan on the 2023 season – “We have some experience returning at all positions we want to carry over into the 2023 season. Our offensive line returns several players with experience from last year, and we will rely heavily on that position group, and we have some good depth at running back. Our front seven defensively got a lot of playing time at the varsity level and will be relied on heavily, especially early. If we can continue to gain depth and improve each day, I believe we can be very competitive to continue the long-standing playoff tradition at Cooper.”
2023 COOPER SCHEDULE
Thursday, Aug. 24 – at Keller, 8 p.m. (KISD Athletic Complex)
Friday, Sept. 1 – vs. Abilene High, 7 p.m. (CHS is home; Shotwell Stadium)
Friday, Sept. 8 – at San Angelo Central, 7 p.m. (San Angelo Stadium)
Friday, Sept. 15 – vs. Lubbock Coronado, 7 p.m. (Shotwell Stadium)
Friday, Sept. 22 – vs. Odessa Permian, 7 p.m. (Shotwell Stadium)
* Thursday, Oct. 5 – vs. Wichita Falls Rider, 7 p.m. (Shotwell Stadium)
* Friday, Oct. 13 – at Amarillo Palo Duro, 7 p.m. (Dick Bivins Stadium)
* Friday, Oct. 20 – vs. Plainview, 7 p.m. (Shotwell Stadium)
* Thursday, Oct. 26 – at Lubbock High, 7 p.m. (Lowery Field at PlainsCapital Park)
* Friday, Nov. 3 – vs. Abilene Wylie, 7 p.m. (Shotwell Stadium)
* District 2-5A Division II game