By Dave Morrison
CLEAR FORK – It would be impossible for Jaxon Cogar to pick one singular moment from his brother Justin’s football career at Westside as the most defining.
There were so many.
The older Cogar’s senior year, in 2014, when Jaxon was just in fourth grade at Berlin McKinney was like a highlight reel in itself, when the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Renegade passed for 2,611 yards and 23 touchdowns and rushed for 1,993 yards and 38 touchdowns and led the Renegades to a 10-3 record and a berth in the Class AA semifinals.
The older Cogar was captain of the first-team all-state team and finished fourth in the Kennedy Award voting as the best player in the state.
“It was fun to watch,” Jaxon said. “Just everything they were doing, going far in playoffs. It was fun to watch.”
The extra large shadow cast by his older brother can be hard to step from behind, when that brother was not only the best player in the school but the state.
Justin knows it.
“There is a little bit (of pressure),” the older brother said. “There’s a certain expectation that he’s always tried to live up to. But I always tell him just be you. And he does a good job of that.”
Jaxon knows that expectation.
“It’s tough,” he said of living up to his brother’s all-state past. “Everybody is always talking about it a lot. But I think that obviously we are two different type players and I want to make a name for myself.”
The 6-foot 4, 220-pound sophomore did a good job of starting his own legacy and stepping out of the shadow last week when he completed 11 of 17 passes for 202 yards. He added 35 yards rushing and a touchdown in a 38-6 victory against Mount View.
He sounded like a savvy veteran when describing his performance.
“I can’t really put it all on myself, my line blacked for me, the receivers caught the ball, everything was executed good.”
It was a 91-yard touchdown pass, on a screen, to Daniel Reed, the Renegades second score, that got the team going.
“That brought a lot of momentum to us,” Jaxon said. “We were all hyped up after that touchdown.”
He will try to add to that when the Renegades travel to Charmco to face Greenbrier West.
And his older brother will be right there, not just watching but watching with the eye of an assistant coach, which he now is at Westside.
“I think he did a good job,” Justin said. “We didn’t want to put a whole lot on him tonight, it was his first real game (he made two starts at the end of last year)with this team. But I thought his decision-making was real good, he took care of the ball and he did what he had to do.”
The two Cogars certainly are different players and they have different personalities.
“He’s kind of care free,” Justin said. “He’s not as serious as me. Im hard on myself. He’ll leave here tonight and he is not going to think about this game as much as I will.”
Which likely will serve him well in his burgeoning career.
“I think that helps him with the pressure of playing quarterback,” Juston said. “You can’t beat yourself up. You’ve got to play the next play whether you throw an interception or not. He does a good job of bouncing back from stuff like that.”
“The kid can throw,” Halsey said. “He doesn’t have the wheels quite like Justin. You know, where Justin could pop off 15, 20 yards at any given moment, Jaxon will probably give you five or six yards. Five plus five is 10, first down.”
Several of his runs, while short, came on key third down situations, extending drives.
“It’s something that I wasn’t very good at last year and I worked a lot to get better running the ball,” Jaxon Cogar said. “
It’s not necessarily Justin whom Halsey evoked when talking about his young signal caller.
“Jaxon kind of reminds you of Travis Cook, who was a starter here at Westside when I first came in,” Halsey said. “He’s a big-bodied kid, he’s a tough kid, he’s got the benefit of all this experience with his brother in his ear, his father in his ear. That’s a big plus.”
Like Travis had his father Larry, a coach, and little Larry, his older brother, in his corner, Jaxon has his brother and his dad, Noel, is also a coach at Westside.
It also sometimes makes for a lively practice, especially with brother and father at practice in coaching capacities.
“I’m hard on him, harder than I am on the rest of the guys and everybody jokes about it,” Justin said. “I expect a lot out of him and he wants to play college football, so I hold him to that standard.”
So who is the tougher family member?
“(Noel) used to be, I think I might be more tough on him him now,” Justin said, beginning to laugh. “Dad’s getting softer in his old age. I’m tougher on Jaxon now”
Truth be told, Jaxon enjoys his brother being around.
“It’s really good,” Jaxon said. “Just for him to be around, always helping me and coaching me to get better. It’s always good for him to be around.”
Even with that enormous shadow.