By Dave Morrison
BLUEFIELD – Out and about in the Bluefield area, Chandler Cooper heard the talk.
The Bluefield quarterback got used to it, ‘What’s it like to hand the ball to a player like Mookie Collier or hard-hitting fullback like Truck Edwards?’
It was like Cooper had the easiest job in the world.
Of course it was a lot more than that.
First, you have to male sure things are running right, a field general of sorts.
And as a quarterback you always want a chance to ply your craft,to air it out. And he got to do a little bit of that.
“I understood what my role was last season,” Cooper said. “When you have a running back like Mook running for something crazy like 14 yards a carry and every time Truck got the ball it was a first down, your job Is to get those guys the ball.”
The key was to win games.
And win they did.
The Beavers went 14-0, all the way to the state championship, beating Fairmont Senior 29-26 in the state championship game.
“It was all like a dream,” I don’t remember any time when we said we were going to win the championship or make it to Wheeling. But then we went 5-0, and the next thing you know we are 10-0 and in the playoffs. All year it was the next game up.”
The Beavers success running the ball was so effective they did not attempt a pass in the semifinal win over Bridgeport and the state title game.
“We didn’t have to throw the ball. My job was to run the offense,” Cooper said. “Any quarterback wants to throw the ball but I couldn’t be selfish about it. I had to be a field general and a leader.”
It wasn’t like Cooper was just the all-time handoff guy for Collier and Edwards, but Cooper, who started all 14 games for the Beavers in 2017 handed off to the dynamic duo 332 times for 3,382 yards and 55 rushing touchdowns.
And, he had one of the best seats in the house, or you would have thought, for Truck Edwards iconic run into the end zone against Fairmont Senior. At the nine-yard line, Edwards took the handoff and was hit separately, by two defenders at the 10, got out of a scrum at about the five and pushed off a defender at the two to reach the end zone. Eight defenders hit him, everyone seemingly had a shot,
“I couldn’t believe it,” Cooper said. “I actually thought he was stopped at the four, and I was going to get a play call from Fritz (Simon, assistant coach, offensive coordinator) and all of a sudden I look back and I see him just pushing people off and getting in the end zone. That’s an image I’ll never forget the rest of my life.”
Not that Cooper didn’t get to pass in 2016, and when he did, it was effective, 38 of 61 (62.3%) passes for 709 yards and nine touchdowns.
Three of his TD passes came in the postseason. He had two rushing touchdowns. Remember the two postseason games he in which he didn’t attempt a pass? He ran for his only two TDs of the season in those games.
The Beavers are back and looking for a repeat.
Bluefield (1-0) opened the season with a convincing 38-14 victory over rival Graham in front of 12,900 fans Friday night.
“It was a very big win for us, there was a lot of pressure in that game,” Cooper said. “We were glad to get that one. Really there is no atmosphere like that. When you think about it just about everybody in the community comes out for that game. It’s an event.”
Most know Cooper went to Graham as a sophomore. He moved to Covington, Va., shortly but when he dad sold his business and they moved back he went to Bluefield. It’s something he says, frankly, that’s in the past.
“Most of my family went to Bluefield,” he said. “My uncles went to to Bluefield, Jay Disibbio, my mother went to Bluefield. I feel like I’ve always been a Bluefield Beaver at heart. I doubt a lot of people believe I went anywhere else they way I always tout Bluefield around the town.”
Bluefield shows it will have the ability to throw the ball. Cooper was 3 for 6 for 168 yards (56 yard per completion) including a 78-yarder to sophomore Isaiah Hairston, a budding D-1 star.
“I think coach realized how hard I worked on my passing in the offseason, and we have some outstanding weapon,” Cooper said. “Ronnell (Blevins) is quick off the line, he has a quick first step, Isaiah run a 4.5 40 and showed what he could do it in the first game and Jaheim (House) is the one guy we go to if we need to high point (throw the ball to the highest point and know your man can out-jump the defender).”
Each of those three had a catch, the 78 yarder to Hairston, a 48 yarder to Blevins and a 44 header to House.
The ground game was on display. Despite no Mookie Collier, despite no Truck Edwards , the Beavers rushed for 328 yards and four touchdowns.
All this is because of the line. And what a line, Cooper said.
“I am blessed to have these guys in front of me,” Cooper said. “These guys are huge. They wore Graham down, I think. And their all good guys off the field.”
Speaking of off the field Cooper is a leader off the field as well. He spent the summer working out with Collier (Marshall) and (Edwards, now the No. 2 fullback at Pitt).
Faith was a big thing for many of the Beavers players.
“That’s where Mook and I really hit it off,” Chandler said. “We never prayed to get a win but we did pray for being blessed to be able to be able to play.”
Chandler led a Bible study every Monday, an typically 10 to 12 football players would attend at the home of Ryan Parris, whose son Kaulin is one of the top kickers in the state for Bluefield.
“It is very important, and I know it wasn’t for everyone, some guys couldn’t care less, but to those of who attend it is very important,” Chandler said. “It wassn’t just football players. At times we’ve had 39-40 kids there. It really is a great time.”
It certainly was the a good start to the Beavers who next travel to Princeton.
“We really want to make it back but we are going to use the same approach and take it one game at a time,” Chandler said. “All our effort is in Princeton right now.”
You can’t argue with a successful receipt for a state title.