Ken Cooper’s in­cred­i­ble play; Irma’s ef­fect on high school sports teams

Calhoun Times - - SPORTS WEDNESDAY -

Ken Cooper’s Drop Kick

In re­cent col­umns I have men­tioned Sono­rav­ille’s own Kenny Cooper and Tifton’s Ken Cooper (no re­la­tion – I think). Ken Cooper died ear­lier this year at the age of 80. Kenny Cooper is busy writ­ing his out­stand­ing ath­letic history as the start­ing cen­ter for Ge­or­gia Tech. His jer­sey num­ber 55 was prom­i­nent in Tech’s tele­vised game with Ten­nessee. I never got the op­por­tu­nity to in­ter­act with Kenny when he was at Sono­rav­ille. When I saw him at a res­tau­rant in Cal­houn one night the im­pres­sion made was he was one of the most out­stand­ing phys­i­cal young men imag­in­able. Here is wish­ing him the best at Tech to go along with the out­stand­ing ca­reer at Sono­rav­ille.

Ken Cooper’s name might not be fa­mil­iar to many read­ers. His story is an out­stand­ing one as a player, as a coach and a suc­cess­ful busi­ness man. I fea­ture a most un­usual play in Cooper’s ca­reer at Ge­or­gia. In fact, the play is so un­usual that most have never seen it, more­over, most have never heard of it. It was a play de­mand­ing per­fect tim­ing and ex­e­cu­tion. The play or tech­nique is called “Drop Kick.” Read on as I tell you about it.

The drop kick was the fore­run­ner of the place kick that we see now as teams kick the try for the point-after a touch­down or an at­tempted field goal. We are fa­mil­iar with the ball be­ing snapped to the holder with a kicker nearby step­ping to the ball placed by the holder in an up­right po­si­tion.

Now pic­ture the ball be­ing snapped to the kicker with no holder around. The kicker drops the ball point down to the ground and his foot kicks the ball at the pre­cise mo­ment the ball ar­rives to the ground. It was in­deed an ac­tion of skill.

In the Ge­or­gia Bull­dogs’ open­ing game against Texas in the mid­dle 1950s Ken Cooper lined up to place kick an ex­tra point or field goal (I can’t find which). The ball was bob­bled by the holder. Cooper picked it up and ran a few steps to his left, stopped abruptly and suc­cess­fully drop kicked the ball through the up­rights for the points.

I did not see that in­ci­dent, but a com­ment writ­ten by an At­lanta sports writer has stayed with me for over 60 years. The writer’s com­ment was Cooper’s re­ac­tion and kick was the most alert play he had ever seen by a col­lege foot­ball player. I have never for­got­ten Ken Cooper.

There is more to the Ken Cooper story as a player and coach. He served as head coach of Ole Miss for four years and de­feated his alma mater in back to back sea­sons. His Rebels handed Notre Dame their lone de­feat in the Ir­ish’s jour­ney to their 11-1 sea­son and the Na­tional Cham­pi­onship in 1977.

Irma hit play­ers and teams hard

The past week or so has ex­posed var­i­ous parts of our coun­try to sit­u­a­tions far be­yond what has been nor­mal. The South­west and South­east have each been af­flicted by hur­ri­canes of mag­ni­tudes with de­struc­tive force caus­ing a dim hope of a re­turn to what once was.

These words are di­rected to our con­cerns about ath­let­ics. This is not to say ath­let­ics are the most im­por­tant as­pect of life. It does say at­ten­tion, in­ter­est, time and fi­nances are con­stantly di­rected to ath­letic com­pe­ti­tion from tots through grade schools, col­leges and pro­fes­sional leagues. One news­pa­per in our area’s head­line in­di­cated teams and play­ers [were] tossed in state of flux (dis­ar­ray) by Irma.

We will con­cern our­selves with the lo­cal scene at this time. My ob­ser­va­tion of the time and ef­forts of soft­ball coaches in our area try­ing to resched­ule games was enough to make me glad I did not have to con­cern my­self with such. With the GHSA in­form­ing teams that re­gion tour­na­ments would start as sched­uled put a strain on schools, coaches and play­ers.

What was true of soft­ball was true of all other ac­tiv­i­ties. School clos­ings, dam­aged play­ing sur­faces and other fac­tors left much to be done to re­turn to nor­mal. Ath­letic fa­cil­i­ties are not at the top of our con­cerns. Don’t our hearts reach out to all those whose com­forts of home and nor­mal work­ing fa­cil­i­ties have been dam­aged to a de­gree de­mand­ing long and dif­fi­cult ef­forts to re­pair.

Weather con­di­tions have al­ways been a fac­tor in ath­letic com­pe­ti­tion (re­mem­ber the ice storm sev­eral years ago when At­lanta was host­ing the Su­per Bowl). Nor­mal ad­verse weather (if there be such) is tol­er­ated and life goes on as a rule. What we have seen lately is far be­yond nor­mal.

I do go back to 1948 to the Fri­day be­fore Thanks­giv­ing. Cal­houn was sched­uled to play Model in Cal­houn on that day. On Thurs­day night a del­uge hit North Ge­or­gia.

The Cal­houn High ath­letic fields in Cal­houn are the low­est in nearly all North Ge­or­gia. Con­se­quently, on Fri­day morn­ing the sight greet­ing ad­min­is­tra­tors and of­fi­cials was water reach­ing from the base­ball field to nearly the 50 yard line on the foot­ball field.

The game was post­poned. That was the year Cal­houn’s Kenneth Moore was chas­ing the state-scor­ing record. I think he needed eight points to break the record. The game was resched­uled for Thanks­giv­ing af­ter­noon. In ad­di­tion to Moore, on that out­stand­ing 1948 Jacket team were Pete Lewis, Ed Lewis, Rex Mead­ows and oth­ers who have passed on or some liv­ing I can’t re­mem­ber.

Items for an­other time

1) Com­ments by Ge­or­gia’s Coach Kirby Smart’s dad, Sonny Smart, on the chang­ing game of foot­ball. Many of these items were found in a Lo­ran Smith ar­ti­cle given me by Buzzy McMil­lan. The game has changed.

2) The cry from out Sono­rav­ille way of “Bring on those Jack­ets.” The Phoenix are off to a great start and the Sono­rav­ille- Cal­houn game looms greatly on the hori­zon. I think Michael “Smi­ley” Haney is the orig­i­na­tor of the cry.

3) A look at my ar­ti­cle of some eight years ago, “Team­mates Mat­ter.” That thought will be mod­i­fied and am­pli­fied by the prin­ci­ple that play­ers don’t run the team. I will say that they can of­ten ruin the team.

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