Cooper Corey is not Harris County’s regular starter at quarterback. Friday night, he had little choice.
Harris County starting quarterback and seasoned veteran Davion Mahone was playing quite well. He opened the field up with his legs, scrambled to keep plays alive and led the Tigers’ offense up and down the field against a vaunted Carver defense. Then, on a play that looked positive from the start, it all fell apart.
Mahone scrambled up the sideline and sprinted towards the end zone. Near midfield, the quarterback was tackled by a host of Carver Tigers. He was tackled a split-second late, but it all looked routine. Normally, the officials would throw a flag, Mahone would jump right up, and the game would move on.
The game did move on, just not with Mahone in it.
The senior remained on the ground, clutching his leg. He would not return to the game, thus paving the way for Corey. And Corey, against one of the area’s toughest opponents, took the opportunity in stride.
“First I was like, ‘umm (in a nervous way),’” Corey said. “But then I was like, ‘we got this.’ ... I really appreciate (Fox’s confidence in me). It gives me a real confidence boost.”
Maybe it was the home crowd, which had to have come close to a sellout. Or the hype surrounding the game — a home tilt against local power Carver will bring out the best in any player, and both sets of stands were filled to the brim.
Who knows what it was that had the sophomore playing so inspired on Friday night. All that matters, at least to Harris County, is the fact that it is a 28-26 winner over Carver, a win that no doubt marks a new high for Jamie Fox’s Tigers. Also relevant: the Tigers have got another really solid option at quarterback.
Fox said he and his coaching staff did not have to make any major adjustments when Corey entered. They removed “a couple” of plays, Fox said, that they designed specifically for Mahone, but other than that, it was a wide-open playbook for Corey.
“90 percent of the stuff we had in this week was still called,” Fox said.
Corey ripped off first-down runs on each of his two carries, and added a touchdown pass on the Tigers’ first possession of the third quarter. A bad snap barely even phased him: He just picked up the loose ball, three yards deep into his own end zone, and sprinted through the middle of Carver’s defense for what appeared to be a first down (an illegal block negated it, but still).
He later converted a fourth-and-2 scramble from the Harris County 20-yard line, the first of two first-down runs the sophomore had on the drive, with around three minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Tigers’ final drive stalled on fourth down deep in Carver territory, but with 16 seconds left, there was little Carver could do to make up the ground.
Corey ran for 53 second-half yards and threw for 90 yards on eight completions, with one touchdown.
Corey’s coach had confidence in him. It was not difficult to see why.
It’s unclear the extent of Mahone’s injury. The Tigers play Westside-Macon next week, and face Troup in early September.
The schedule won’t get any easier. But Tigers fans can rest easy knowing either Corey or Mahone will be behind center.
“I’ve never given out a game ball in my five years as a head coach,” Fox said. “I gave one tonight. 17 (Corey) came in and played his tail off. He was not nervous. Was not scared. The team rallied around him.”