Cooper Bulldog Markell Smith runs past a Rattler defender during the first quarter of Friday night’s area round playoff against Tolar.

On Friday night, the Cooper Bulldogs and Tolar Rattlers hooked up in the area round of the playoffs. When both teams walked off the field in Denton, it was Tolar holding the trophy after a 35-24 victory.

The two high-powered offenses put on a show for the crowd. Both teams moved the ball up and down the field. Both defenses made huge plays at key points in the game. It was Tolar’s defense that got one extra stop and their ability to convert points after the touchdown that was the difference.

Cooper started the scoring early in the first. Canon Ingram took the opening kickoff 77 yards to the Rattler 15-yard line. Markell Smith punched it in from one yard out on fourth and goal. The two point conversion attempt was no good. The Rattlers answered on their next drive. They went 70 yards in 10 plays for the score. The extra point was good.

Trailing by one point the Bulldogs elected to go for a fourth down and two at their own 38 yard line. The Bulldogs were stopped after a one yard gain, giving the Rattlers the ball back. Seven plays later, Tolar scored another touchdown. The extra point made the score 14-6.

Cooper answered on their next possession. Once again it was Smith finding the endzone. Smith’s 43-yard score capped off a 65-yard drive.

The Bulldogs couldn’t convert the two-point try. The next two possessions for the Bulldogs both ended in fumbles that were recovered by the Rattlers.

Trailing 21-12, and having turned the ball over to Tolar with three minutes remaining in the half, the defense was asked to step up for Cooper.

The Bulldog defense came up with the play of the night in the process. With half a minute to play in the half, Tolar had the ball at the one yard line for a second and goal.

Looking to go up 28-12 before half, the quarterback tried handing the ball to the running back. The exchange was bobbled and the ball landed in the arms of Markell Smith at the two. Smith ran untouched for a 98-yard touchdown. After the failed two-point conversion, the score was 21-18 at the half.

On the opening possession of the second half, the Bulldogs defense once again came up with a turnover. Tolar, who was in the red zone once again, tried an option play with their quarterback. After deciding to keep the ball, he fumbled it at the 15 yard line trying to fight for extra yards.

The Bulldogs got the ball back with a chance to take the lead. However, the offense gave the ball back to Tolar on a fumble of their own. This time the Rattlers made Cooper pay with a 30 yard touchdown run of their own. The extra point made the score 28-18. For the first time all night the Cooper offense was held to a three and out and had to punt the ball to Tolar.

The Rattlers went on a 12 play drive that ate up nearly eight minutes on the clock and then capped it off by scoring a touchdown to go up 35-18. Looking like it was over, the Bulldogs weren’t ready to quit yet. Smith got his fourth touchdown of the night on an 18 yard run. It was set up by a 50 yard run from Colin Ingram. The two-point conversion was no good as was the onside kick attempt.

With the loss, the Cooper Bulldogs finished the season with an 11-1 record. They were undefeated district champions as well as bi-district champions. Colin Ingram finished with 112 yards rushing and 62 passing yards. Smith had 75 yards rushing and four touchdowns, including the 98-yard fumble return.

“I’m extremely proud of all of our kids, and especially our six seniors,” Cooper head coach Rod Castorena said. “I know a lot of people had doubts leading into the season about what we could do and how good we could be because of all the seniors we’d lost from the year before, but those guys went out and worked their tails off and proved everyone wrong, and proved to themselves what they were capable of.

“Our kids gave great effort all night, and at the end of the day, that’s all you can ask of them. It was just a game between two evenly matched teams, and even though it hurts, when you step back and look at all this team accomplished, all you can be is proud.”

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