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Cougars hit ground running with Cooper

Coronado’s football program will have its fourth coach in four years roaming the sideline when it opens the season Sept. 3 at Eldorado.

However, the Cougars were plenty familiar with their new leader long before Thursday, when high school teams began noncontact practices throughout Southern Nevada.

Lance Cooper was hired in July after serving as Coronado’s defensive coordinator last season. He has been an on-and-off assistant with the program since the school opened in 2001.

“We’ve all played for him,” senior offensive tackle Jake Freeman said. “He’s been one of the coaches, offense or defense, so we all know who he is and what he can do.”

It’s something the Cougars hope will smooth the transition to the new staff. Former coach Todd Stratton left over the summer because of uncertainty about his teaching position, Cooper said, and is now offensive coordinator at Ventura (Calif.) College.

Though Cooper was hired late in comparison to other first-year coaches in the area, his familiarity with the program will help.

Thursday marked a bustling start to the season, with coaches and players shuffling in and out of his office.

“How excited am I? I’m a little too busy to be excited,” Cooper said, seconds before his cell phone rang before practice.

Coronado will try to reach the postseason for the first time since 2007. The Cougars won their first two games last year before sliding to a 3-6 finish, including an 0-6 mark in Southeast League play.

Cooper is sticking with the spread offense installed by Stratton a year ago. And while a quarterback battle still has to resolve itself, players are glad they won’t have to learn a new system.

“Everyone is getting used to the spread, and we have the full array of what we can be doing,” Freeman said. “I think we should do well on offense.

“Everyone’s starting to kind of jell and get their movements together and get in sync.”

The Cougars’ top offensive weapon might be senior running back Kentavius Hudson, who rushed for 404 yards and eight touchdowns while averaging 5.1 yards per carry last year. Hudson also will play outside linebacker and safety.

“I expect big things of him,” Cooper said. “He’s a Division I athlete, and he’ll play somewhere.”

Senior receiver Devon Riley also will be counted on after catching 24 passes for 467 yards and two scores last year.

But the uncertainty at quarterback and the fact that Freeman is the only returning starting offensive lineman gives the Cougars plenty to work on.

Contact practices start Monday.

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