Noah Garcia and Dalziel Sifuentes combined to run for 321 yards and quarterback Aidan Thompson accounted for four touchdowns as the 10th-ranked Cooper football team moved to 7-0 on the season and 3-0 in District 2-5A Division I play with a 42-6 win over Amarillo Palo Duro on Friday night at Shotwell Stadium.
Garcia ran for 207 yards and a touchdown to put him over 1,400 yards on the season, while Sifuentes made his varsity debut in a big way.
The varsity newcomer had 114 yards on 20 carries as he got a chance to shine under the Friday night lights for the first time.
“I was really excited and kind of nervous at first, but I got the hang of it,” Sifuentes said. “(Noah) would tell me what holes to hit and how to hit them and when they were going to be there.”
Dylon Davis, who has a has made a habit of creating turnovers this season for the defense, knew what a special player the Cooper offense was getting in Sifuentes.
“Before he got pulled up, we were going against him every day on scout team and he was running like that on us,” Davis said of Sifuentes. “We knew he was going to be a key component in our offense.”
Thompson was effusive in his praise of the newest weapon that he has on offense.
“I’ve known Dalziel for a while and it’s awesome to see him have success at the varsity level,” said Thompson. “There’s a lot of untapped potential for him to dig into and I’m excited to see that. We tried to prepare him all week that it was going to be fast but to just slow it down in his head and do Dalziel things.”
Cooper players have a stated goal of an undefeated season and a state championship, and to achieve that goal, they have to take care of business against overmatched teams such as Palo Duro.
Cooper did just that with a 21-point outburst in the first quarter that came from a 4-yard Garcia run, 27-yard touchdown pass from Thompson to Daelin Campos and a 1-yard keeper by Thompson.
Garcia, who was named the statewide Player of the Week by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football earlier on Friday, got his touchdown on the fourth play of the game, scoring just 40 seconds after the opening kickoff.
“I was really pleased with the way that we came out fast,” Cooper coach Aaron Roan said. “Our kids really came out firing and I was really pleased with that.”
Cooper pushed the lead to 28-0 when Thompson found Bryan Spotwood in the end zone with a 20-yard touchdown pass with 8:04 left to play in the first half.
“The coaches instilled in us to start fast and just play our football,” Thompson said. “We started fast and scored but then turned away from that. We fixed it at halftime and focused on us to play our football.”
The Dons bounced back with a five-play, 86-yard scoring drive that ended with Dondray Degrate’s 1-yard run and a missed extra point. Outside of that drive, the Palo Duro offense was held to 24 total yards in the game.
Thompson, who moved past the 1,000-yard passing mark on the season in the first quarter, made a rare mistake when he attempted to throw across his body with Cooper in the red zone on their next possession and saw his pass intercepted by Noel Marquez.
The second half began with another big play by Davis, who recovered a fumble on the first play of the half. Cooper then struck with a 30-yard scoring run from Campos on the next play.
“We want to score on our first possession of each half and we were able to do that,” Roan said. “Offensively, we were able to start fast and the defense was able to get the ball back to them.”
Despite the dominant effort by the Cooper defense, Davis lamented dropping what would have been his eighth interception of the season.
“I should have had another one but it’s okay,” Davis said. “In practice, we preach, preach, preach turnovers and if the ball is on the ground we know it has to be ours and I just happened to be around the ball.”
Cooper finished off the scoring with 5:44 to play in the third quarter when Thompson threw his third touchdown pass of the night — this time hitting a Corbin Russell from nine yards out.
One area that Roan saw a need for improvement was penalties. Cooper was flagged 16 times for 159 yards in the win — numbers that could be the difference between playing for a state championship and an early playoff exit.
“We shot ourselves in the foot a little bit with penalties and those types of things and we need to clean that up,” he said. “Overall, (though), I am really pleased with how we played.”
DISTRICT 2-5A DIVISION I
COOPER 42, AMARILLO PALO DURO 6
COO — Noah Garcia 4 run (Trey Castillo kick), 11:20
COO — Daelin Campos 27 pass from Aidan Thompson (Castillo kick), 7:51
COO — Thompson 1 run (Castillo kick), 3:07
COO — Bryan Spotwood 20 pass from Thompson (Castillo kick), 8:04
PD — Dondray Degrate 1 run (kick failed), 5:35
COO — Campos 30 run (Castillo kick), 11:33
COO — Corbin Russell 9 pass from Thompson (Castillo kick), 5:44
RUSHING — Palo Duro, Caleb Bernal 4-15, Dondray Degrate 9-8, Kain Lozano 1-0, Anthony Randle 10-(-5). Cooper, Noah Garcia 18-207, Dalziel Sifuentes 20-114, Daelin Campos 1-30, Noah Bjorlie 3-14, Aidan Thompson 1-1.
PASSING — Palo Duro, Degrate 7-14-0—92. Cooper, Thompson 17-24-1—188.
RECEIVING — Palo Duro, Kameron Brown 1-59, Israel Guevara 3-27, De’Zhaun Gilbreath 1-4, Noel Marquez 2-2. Cooper, Campos 9-111, Bryan Spotwood 3-33, Braiden Hill 2-24, Izaiah Clark 1-11, Corbin Russell 1-9, Patrick Esparza 1-0.
RECORDS — Palo Duro 3-4, 1-2; Cooper 7-0, 3-0.