Often times before taking the field, Waskom senior Mikael Cooper writes a message down for himself and his team.
“What I do sometimes is I write on the board, ’48 minutes to play, a lifetime to remember,’” he said. “That’s what my dad always tells me.”
Cooper and his Wildcats are able to play for at least 48 more minutes because of a play he made in the second round of the playoffs.
With just five seconds remaining, Daingerfield quarterback Zaylon Jeter connected with Dee Lewis to cut Waskom’s lead down to one point.
The Tigers took a timeout and instead of kicking the extra point to bring the game into overtime, they made a gutsy call to go for the two-point conversion and Cooper made a play he’ll likely remember for a lifetime.
“I was as a backer to trick the line and I got down as a tackle, and I’m just sitting there like, ‘I’ve got to get through,’” Waskom’s senior linebacker and defensive lineman recalls.
“So I just drove through, I hit the ground and the guard in front of me grabbed my legs and I fell. Then I got back up, ran around and I tackled No. 3 (Jeter).”
“He made the game-saving tackle against Daingerfield,” Waskom athletic director and head football coach Whitney Keeling said.
“He gets knocked to the ground, hops back up, runs down the line of scrimmage and tackles the guy before he can get into the end zone. The lineman is lying on him and he jumps up and runs down the line and tackles him to save the game on the two-point conversion.”
The Tigers then attempted an onside kick but it was recovered by the Wildcats who sealed up the 28-27 win in the area round of the playoffs.
“Against Daingerfield, everybody said we were supposed to get blown out and that didn’t happen,” Cooper offered. “When somebody tells me I can’t do something, it just motivates me way more. I’m like, ‘I’m fixing to do it.’
“I love challenges because if you’re not given a challenge, it’s not really pushing you to do anything or accomplish anything.”
Cooper has been on and off with football but was determined to play his senior year. This year, he has 72 tackles, 19 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks, one fumble recovery and five forced fumbles.
“It’s really a good comeback story and he’s had great year and he has helped us out drastically,” Keeling said. “He’s one of the leaders for us on the defensive line and at linebacker.
“We’ve moved him around. He’s like an ultimate, fighting Ninja Warrior dude. That’s what you’re going to see on TV later in life. He is a freakish athlete.”
The Wildcats own an overall record of 10-1 and went 5-1 in district play. That one loss was to the Elysian Fields Yellow Jackets and tonight, the two Harrison County rivals will go head-to-head in the quarterfinals.
“We’ve just got to stay focused and we definitely can’t give up big plays, Cooper said when asked what his team must do to get revenge on the Yellow Jackets. “Go full out the whole game.”
As a senior, Cooper hopes to extend his high school football career as long as possible and leave a positive mark with his teammates.
“You know how people say to find someone who inspires you that does what you do?” Cooper asked. “Well I kind of changed it up and said I like to push myself to inspire others.
“More than anything else, we play as a family. If I do something wrong, I’m letting my family down. So I’ve got to make a big play every play.”
If he’s able to do that, regardless of the outcome, tonight’s game will be 48 minutes Cooper won’t soon forget.
Tonight’s game between Waskom and Elysian Fields is slated for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff at Longview’s Lobo Stadium.