Before we close the book on the YAIAA football regular season and turn our attention toward the playoffs, it's worth taking stock of one of the incredible stories of the last 10 weeks: The record-shattering play of Alex Cooley.
The numbers posted by the Eastern York running back were simply staggering. A sampling of some of the milestones Cooley piled up:
- With his career-capping 10-touchdown, 495-rushing yard performance Saturday -- during a beyond-wild, 81-56 win at York County Tech -- Cooley now owns the top two single-game rushing performances in state history. His 500-yard outing at Hanover on Sept. 28 stands as the PIAA record.
- Cooley finished the campaign with a YAIAA single-season record 2,845 rushing yards. That’s also the sixth-highest single-season total ever in the state.
- Cooley ran for more than 200 yards in eight of his 10 games.
- He added 39 rushing touchdowns and averaged 11.03 yards per carry.
And he did all of that in 10 games. For his career, Cooley ran for a league-best 6,015 yards -- a number that should stand for quite a while.
This was certainly the most impressive season we've from a YAIAA back since West York's Brandon Real ran for 51 touchdowns and more than 2,500 yards in 2008. It may have been the best ever.
On Twitter and elsewhere, however, I've seen some people who would rather call into question the competition Cooley has played. Yes, it's true that Eastern York, a Class AAA team, played most of its games against single-A and double-A opponents. And Yes, Cooley's two biggest performances of the year came against teams (Hanover and York County Tech) which won zero and two games this season, respectively.
But I can't help but think that anybody who focuses on the quality of Cooley's opponents is missing the point.
Plenty of running backs have faced a schedule similar to Cooley's. None have averaged 11 yards per carry for an entire season. None have shredded defenses as constantly. None of have made 200- and 300-yard games look so routine -- mundane, even.
In other words: I don't care what teams you're playing, running for 2,800-plus yards in 10 games is downright remarkable.
All along, Cooley has displayed the same low-key, almost nonchalant attitude. He seems uncomfortable talking about his own exploits, preferring to stick to more team-centric subjects. Remember, this is a player who took a knee on a breakaway run at the end of his record-setting game against Hanover, costing himself 50 more yards and a touchdown. Who, according to Eastern coach Richard Brubaker, has not missed a practice during the last two years.
He was absent for a game one time, Brubaker said -- so he could travel to Parris Island, S.C. to watch his brother graduate from the Marine Corps training program.
So rather than waste time comparing Cooley to past players or trying to shoehorn his accomplishments into a larger context, let's just instead just appreciate Alex and his remarkable season -- one unlike any we've ever seen in York County.
A year that, in all likelihood, will not be repeated for quite some time.