It's only August, but in Cooper, the local buzz about the Bulldogs is building.
With nine offensive and five defensive starters returning, Cooper looks ready to challenge defending district champion Clarksville and area finalist Edgewood for the 8-2A D2 title.
The Bulldogs have broken even of late (6-6 finishes in 2012 and 2011), but talent at the skill positions and size up front has some observers thinking this could be a big year in Cooper.
Overall, the team has 14 seniors and 17 juniors, making for an abundance of experience on the roster. But seventh-year head coach Ronnie Green said he's approaching this season the same as other years when local expectations aren't so high.
"Each group (of players) that comes through wants that year to be the best year that that place has had, whether it be Cooper or anywhere else" Green said. "I look at it like at like this is a year to be better than we have been, but at the same time, we feel that way every year."
The running back tandem of Demarcus Robinson (110-861, 14 TDs) and Jermey Mims should set the pace behind a line featuring tackle Trevor Mobley and center Tyler Williams. Cooper will run a multiple wing offense, with Casey Leatherwood under center. Michael Felts and Jack Cain are returning starters at wide receiver.
Defensively, linebackers Austin Blakley (69 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 INT, 1 fumble recovery), all-state Colby Early (145 tackles) and Brandon Chandler bring big-play capability in the midfield. Robinson and Mims will be in the secondary when the Bulldogs are on defense.
Cooper will have plenty of time to get warmed up for its district schedule with a respectable non-district slate of four schools with larger enrollments. Farmersville, Commerce and Mount Vernon are perennial contenders, and even the trip to Pattonville to play Prairiland will be a test, Green said.
"They play us tough every year," Green said. "It's always a physical game with us and Prairiland."
In district play, Cooper gets Edgewood at home, but must travel to Clarksville and Alba. Green said he expects Alba-Golden to join Clarksville, Cooper and Edgewood in the fight for first place.
Head Coach: Ronnie Green. 2012 Record: 6-6, 4-2 in District 8-2A D2. Top Players: RB Demarcus Robinson, Sr.; LB Colby Early, Jr.; LB Brandan Chandler, Sr.; OL Trevor Mobley, Sr.; OL Tyler Williams, Sr.; RB Jeremy Mims, Sr.; TE Blake Hohenberger, Sr.; DL Billy Watson, Sr.; DL Devin Wilkerson, Sr.