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It's back...

Last summer, we rolled out a preseason blog series -- The 11 to watch in 2011 -- profiling a few of the YAIAA's football players heading into last fall. This year, we're at it again. May we present to you, The 12 to Watch in 2012.

There's one major change to this year's list, besides the number: This time, I'll be limiting the selections to one per team. For us, it's a way to profile a wider range of players and teams from the league's 22 representatives. And since several teams in the area have more than one player worthy of making this list, I'll also include an "Others to watch" section with each of the 12 players looking at a few of each player's respective teammates who should also shine under the lights each Friday.

Without further adieu, here's a look at the first of this year's 12: Eastern York running back Alex Cooley.

RB Alex Cooley

Eastern York, Sr.

2011 stats: 242 att., 1,950 rushing yards, 8.1 yards per carry,  18 TDs

A repeat selection to this list, and with good reason -- Cooley has posted some video-game type numbers during the last two seasons and led the YAIAA in rushing last fall. At 5-foot-7 and 177 pounds, Cooley is a stout, powerful runner who's been known to drag a defender or two downfield with him. He ran for more than 100 yards in nine of the Golden Knights' 10 games last season, headlined by a 364-yard, three-touchdown performance against Biglerville in Week 7. And no running back in the YAIAA last season had more rushing attempts than Cooley's 242.

Then there's this: With more than 3,100 career rushing yards, Cooley is within range of breaking the league rushing record of 4,433 yards. That mark was set by former Littlestown standout Jeremiah Collins in 1998.

Other Golden Knights to watch:

As a freshman last season, Jake Kessler emerged as Eastern's top pass catching threat. He reeled in 11 passes for 284 yards -- good for a 25.8 per catch average. He also scored three touchdowns. With Cooley sucked opposing defenses closer to the line of scrimmage, Kessler has the sort of big-play ability to keep teams honest.

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