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Chiefs make a stand in victory over Hillcrest

Cooper lifts Kickapoo to win over unbeaten Hillcrest


1:00 AM, Sep. 28, 2012 EDT

Kickapoo quarterback Anthony Cooper (9) runs the ball on Thursday night during the Chiefs' victory over visiting Hillcrest. Bruce E. Stidham/for the News-Leader

Hillcrest High School coach John Beckham said he's lost all of his quarterbacks.

Meanwhile, Kickapoo coach Joel Wells surely has found his.

On a night where the referees and medical staff were some of the busiest folks around, Kickapoo upset its city and Ozark Conference rivals from Hillcrest 26-21 on Homecoming Thursday at Pottenger Stadium.

The teams combined for 23 penalties and a combined 181 yards of penalty yardage, and Hillcrest (5-1) lost its top two quarterbacks on the depth charts, as Jonah Hill and Micah Liming suffered injuries.

Amid all this and some light rain late, Kickapoo signal-caller Anthony Cooper played what his coach called the junior's finest game in keying the upset.

"I got after him for not pulling the ball and running a couple times, and I told him, 'You make the decisions and I'll live with them,' " Kickapoo coach Joel Wells said. "He's a quarterback, and he's still developing. He's going to be exceptional a year from now."

Wells looked to Cooper in some key situations, including throws on two third downs on the game-sealing drive.

"Our offense has a potential to be great, even though we haven't showed it yet," Cooper said. "Everybody played their part today, defense played great. And we're just ready for the rest of the season."

Cooper finished 9 of 17 passing for 149 yards. He threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more, and did not turn the ball over.

The Chiefs helped muddy the conference race. With a game at West Plains next week and a game with Lebanon still looming, the 4-2 Chiefs just might have OC life.

Kickapoo got another strong game from senior defensive end Michah Foote, who keyed the victory against Glendale last week.

He was able to get into the Hillcrest backfield again, disrupting the Hillcrest offense during a first-half shutout and re-injuring Hill's ankle to knock him out of the game.

"We put our defensive ends on their quarterback," Wells said. "Maybe it confused them a little bit, but our defense played well in the first half.

With backup Liming in after halftime and down 14-0, the Hornets came back tough, though.

The senior found Matt Rush for a 22-yard score on Hillcrest's first possession of the half, then found Juwan Johnson for a 58-yard score after another Kickapoo touchdown to make it 20-14.

On the first play of the next possession, though, Liming went down with an ankle injury after being dropped for a loss.

"We have no quarterbacks in our program anymore," said Beckham, with Hill and Liming both on crutches nearby after the game. "Our JV quarterback has a broken clavicle and is out for the year, and I don't know about these two guys, but it doesn't look too promising."

Rush then went under center, but did not complete his one pass attempt as the drive fizzled. He did run for a 59-yard touchdown late, though, forcing Cooper to make a couple more plays to seal the win.

Beckham said he was outcoached by Wells, who rushed three defenders at times early and controlled the ball late, running 29 of the final 34 offensive plays.

"I told the kids after the game that this loss was on me," Beckham said. "I didn't have them prepared, you know, and it is what it is."

Kickapoo outgained the explosive Hillcrest offensive in total yardage, 296-266.

"They're just really sound on defense, and they don't beat themselves," Beckham said. "They kind of make you march the field down, and not make any mistakes.

"And most of the time high school kids make mistakes."

Hillcrest plays host to Parkview next Thursday with an opportunity to climb right back into at least a first-place tie in the league race.

 

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