John Cooper football and Erik DeHaven look to continue winning ways
THE WOODLANDS, TX -- Taking over a program that previously finished 9-1, runner-up in the 3A division of the Southwest Preparatory Conference, and returns key players on both sides of the ball is no simple task, believe it or not. The John Cooper Dragons are on the cusp of winning a championship, something the team has never done in their short nine-year history. With a talented team and excited fan base eager to win, Cooper had to make the right move to keep this momentum going. When the school announced that Erik DeHaven, a former Touchdown Club of Houston Coach of the Year finalist and head coach of one of the top private school teams in Texas, would be taking over the program, the Dragons struck gold.
Coach DeHaven brings over winning standards from St. Pius X, and he and his coaching staff will work to sustain those standards at John Cooper.
“Every single day, we want to compete and get better,” said DeHaven. “I know every coach in the country says that, but a lot of coaches forget the mindset that it takes to really win. We don’t, and our kids are starting to buy into that, so that’s pretty cool.”
With John Cooper coming so close to winning it all last season, there’s no doubt that the Dragons are talented and ready to win. However, DeHaven isn’t going to let his team look ahead. He knows that winning is a step-by-step process.
“They’re phenomenal kids that are itching to win,” said DeHaven. “They got so close last year and because of that, they’re focused, especially the senior group. They want to finish it off right, but we have to take it every day at a time.”
Those phenomenal kids include seven returning starters on both sides of the football, highlighted by All-Conference receiver and linebacker, Thomas Elkhoury and Cameron Reed. A position the Dragons would not be returning a starter this season was the quarterback position. Coach DeHaven was looking to replace Evan Minarovic and the 4000 passing yards and 53 touchdowns the senior QB racked up in his final year. That search appears to be done as New Caney transfer Kaedyn Sullivan is listed next to QB1 on the Dragons depth chart.
“He’s pretty special,” said DeHaven about his new junior quarterback. “He can make all the big throws, and we’ve got a lot of weapons around him.”
Coach DeHaven says he wants to play, “a fun, physical, and exciting style of football.” Often times, people will view physical styles of play and fun and exciting styles as mutually exclusive. However, DeHaven feels John Cooper is versatile enough to do both this season.
“We’re never going to allow a team to dictate what we can and can’t do,” said DeHaven. “If a team wants to load the box, we’ll air-raid them until they decide to cover it. When they do, we start running it down their throat until they decide to bring them back in. I think when you put those two things together it does create pretty exciting stuff.”
DeHaven also plans to be a high tempo team that runs a lot of plays during the game. DeHaven pointed to his offensive line as the key to playing this style of football. That offensive line will be led by the nationally-ranked senior guard, Kase Harris.
With Cooper finishing 9-1 and second in the conference last season, there isn’t too much that will surprise fans this season. That said, Coach DeHaven feels that a couple of guys could open up some eyes this fall.
“I think Ben Deloit is going to have a breakout season,” said DeHaven. “He got injured early last year, but he’s a flashy player. He’s somebody that definitely would’ve played for us at Pius, and I think he’s pretty special.”
Defensively, the Dragons could have another impact player lining up next to Cameron Reed.
“I think Jake Peterson is someone to watch,” said DeHaven. “He’s a 6-foot-2-inch, 200-pound outside linebacker with great speed and plays physical. I think he should do some really good things.”
John Cooper football and Coach DeHaven seem to be the perfect fit for each other. Fans of the Dragons should be excited about the 2019 season as it looks like the team is poised to take the next big step and become SPC champions for the first time. Cooper opens up the season on the road against Frassati Catholic on August 30.