By Connor Mullins.
Drama. Trash talk. Passion. The Eagles (0-2) and the Cooper Cougars (2-0) have always had a heated crosstown rivalry. This Friday, Sept. 13, at Shotwell Stadium, these two teams will go head-to-head once again for the bragging rights earned by the winner.
The Eagles have struggled in their first two games and winning Friday’s game would be a huge motivation boost for this team.
“I’ve been here long enough to know how to handle this game. This game is always exciting, and everyone knows each other from the opposing team,” Head Coach Mike Fullen said. Fullen has been on the Eagles coaching staff since 1997, however this is his first year as a head coach after former coach Del van Cox took on the role as Assistant Athletic Director in Abilene ISD.
“Being a head coach is a lot different. It’s a lot more paperwork and having to learn how to delegate,” Fullen said. “This summer wasn’t fun until two-a-days rolled around. I enjoyed it and I’m blessed to be the head coach of this team.”
The Eagles senior starting QB Eric Abbe struggled last Friday against the Midland Lee Rebels. He went 9-23 for 70 yards and a touchdown, however Fullen has named him the starter for Friday’s game despite backup QB Matthew Ezzell’s big performance. Ezzell went 4-4 for 92 yards and a touchdown against the Rebels.
“Eric will start. I thought Matthew played really well on Friday,” Fullen said.
Cooper has gotten off to a good start in 5A beating Keller and Grapevine in their first two games.
“They’re good and extremely talented,” Fullen said. “They’ll make a deep run in 5A. It’ll be a battle.”
The Cougars have a relatively young starting QB and RB/WR, but they’ve already combined for nine touchdowns this season. Cooper’s starting junior QB Aidan Thompson has gone 27 of 42 for 227 passing yards and four TD’s so far and Cooper’s starting junior RB/WR Noah Garcia has already gotten 366 rushing yards and 3 rushing touchdowns with 47 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
However Fullen is not worried about Friday’s game.
“We’ll have some new wrinkles here and there with how we play on Friday but we’re more worried about us, not them,” Fullen said.
The Eagles have only lost to the Cougars once in the past 5 years.
During the week preceding the game, immense levels of trash talk takes place on Twitter between the Eagle Front Row and the Cougars Front Row. Traditionally, the whole community of Abilene shows out for this game and latecomers are faced with standing room only. Shotwell will roar unlike any other game the Eagles will play this season. If the Eagles win this game on Friday, it will be a major first victory for Fullen and his staff.