H.D. Woodson quarterback Rashad Cooper has thrown for over 300 yards and rushed for over 100 more in his first two games this season, which he admits is a sign of the times more than anything else. As a sophomore last season, Cooper rushed for more yards (149) under center than passing (140) in limited time as the Warriors backup, and his speed was starting to earn Cooper a reputation as a player who enjoyed the scramble.
“I’m trying to be more of a quarterback first, throw the ball more. When the time comes, I can still run it though,” Cooper said. “I’m trying to be a quarterback more this year.”
In the first game of the season at Martinsburg (W.Va), Woodson’s offense “started off a little shaky,” and mistakes were made, said Cooper. But he ended up having a career night. The 5-foot-9, 180-pounder threw for 213 yards and one touchdown, and ran for 78 yards on 10 carries in the 20-14 loss. He followed up that performance with a nearly perfect outing last week against Theodore Roosevelt, completing 7 of 8 passes for 157 yards and two touchdowns and the Warriors scored 42 points in the win.
Woodson is playing a nearly identical nonconference schedule from last fall. The Warriors opened with Martinsburg (W.Va) the last two seasons, and like last year, will travel to play St. Edwards (Ohio) this week, followed by a road test at Glen Mills (Pa.) next week. The Warriors lost both those games last year by a combined score of 86-20, but a lot of the underclassmen learned how to play out-of-state and on the road, Cooper said. After an offseason full of footwork drills, and refined passing motion, he’s looking forward to being the starter against those opponents the next two weeks.
“It helps us a lot. I think it prepares us [for DCIAA play],” Cooper said. “This year’s team is more hungry.”
The season opener against McKinley provided an odd setting two weeks ago for Dunbar’s Delonte Matthews, who was taking the field for the first time in his varsity career without his older brother Lamel playing quarterback. Lamel Matthews was one of the most productive quarterbacks in recent Dunbar history, having started all four years at the school and leading his team to several appearances in the Turkey Bowl. And he was on the passing end of Delonte’s breakout junior season, when the younger Matthews caught 32 passes for nearly 700 yards and eight touchdowns.
He continued that form in his first game as a senior in a 28-2 win over the Trainers. Matthews caught six passes for 102 yards and a touchdown, which counts among one of his single most productive games in his Dunbar career. And he is beginning to meld with new quarterback Chrisdieon Alston, a Ballou transfer who is just a sophomore.
“Chrisdieon, he’s got a nice arm. He gets it to me,” Matthews said. “When it’s not on the money, it just gives me a chance to make plays.”
Matthews most important relationship on the field, however, remains in the family. His younger brother Davon Matthews, who competed with Alston for the starting quarterback spot in training camp, has moved over to slot receiver. He had one catch against McKinley, and Delonte is bearing the responsibility of helping him learn the position heading into this week’s game against Phelps, which shares a practice field at Spingarn with the Crimson Tide. The whole team is learning to move on after having just one quarterback the last four years, including Delonte Matthews, who said he wasn’t the only beneficiary of Lamel Matthews’s success.
“Everybody going to miss that,” Matthews said. “This year I think I’m a better receiver after the catch. So I think I’m going to put up better numbers.”
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