SALT LAKE CITY — It wasn’t until the game was finished that Cammon Cooper, the Lehi High quarterback, realized what he had accomplished. After more than four hours of play, after a combined 1,454 yards in offense and 20 touchdowns and a 72-66 win over Alta, someone informed him that he had just thrown 10 touchdown passes.
Ten TD passes: five in the first half, three in the second half, two in overtime. The last TD pass ended a game that was so long that Lehi coach Ed Larson almost walked across the field to the opposing coach to ask for a draw to protect the tiring players from injury.
“I didn’t realize it,” says Cooper of his 10 TD throws. “I wasn’t thinking about that because it was such a close game. It didn’t even feel like I threw that many. I couldn’t even remember half of them because of all that was going on. It was crazy.”
For the record, Cooper’s total is nearly a record. Only one high school quarterback anywhere in the history of high school football has ever thrown more touchdown passes in a single game. Arthur Smith of Cozad, Nebraska, threw 15 TD passes in a 201-7 rout of Overton — in 1921. Cooper now ranks No. 2 on the all-time list — tied with 14 other quarterbacks. As you might guess, the era of the spread offense produced most of them. Of the 15 QBs who have thrown for 10 TDs in a game, 10 have done so since 2011, and six since 2015.
The reason Cooper threw 10 TD passes in a single night is because both teams tossed defense aside for the night.
“Everyone on offense knew we had to score every time,” says Cooper. Lehi led 35-21 at halftime. Alta led 49-42 at the end of the third quarter. The teams were tied at 59 at the end of regulation. Both teams scored in the first overtime, but Alta was stopped in the second overtime and whiffed a field goal, opening the way for Cooper to throw his 10th TD pass. Pity Alta’s Will Dana. Alta’s quarterback threw five touchdown passes himself — a fantastic night by any standard, except this one.
Cooper’s numbers: 74 attempts, 46 completions, 648 yards, 10 TDs, 1 interception — that’s a touchdown about every seven attempts. Alta could not stop Cooper, even though his intentions were clear — receivers Dallin Holker and Kade Moore combined for 20 catches, 506 yards and 6 TDs.
For Cooper, it was another step in his steady rise to become one of the nation’s top prep quarterbacks. Last season he threw for 4,059 yards, 38 touchdowns and 13 interceptions — that adds up to 8.4 yards per attempt. He has been offered scholarships by 19 Div. I schools representing every conference in the country.
Cooper has committed to play for the Cougars — of Washington State. He also was offered by Ole Miss, Arizona State, Oregon State, North Carolina, Georgia, Cal, Boise State, Tennessee, Georgia, Missouri and Louisville. Alabama, the defending national champions, offered him a scholarship after he had already committed to WSU. BYU offered him a scholarship during the spring of his sophomore year if he agreed to commit on the spot.
“I thought I was too young to do that,” says Cooper.
Cooper will graduate early and enroll at WSU in January, making him eligible to compete in spring practice, where he will attempt to replace another Utahn, WSU’s current quarterback, Luke Falk, a Logan High grad who is projected to be a first-round NFL draft pick (he visited with Falk during the recruiting process). WSU coach Mike Leach has a history of producing prolific quarterbacks and high-scoring pass offenses.
Cooper was invited to participate in the prestigious Elite 11 Camp in Oregon this summer — an annual collection of the nation’s top quarterbacks. The camp’s alumni includes Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford, Matt Leinart, Tim Tebow, Vince Young, Jameis Winston, Teddy Bridgewater and Tanner Mangum (who was a camp counselor this summer).
Reporting on the Elite camp, Sports Illustrated wrote, “If Washington State was aiming for the second coming of Luke Falk in its 2018 recruiting class, it did just about as well as it could have in nabbing Cooper. Falk and Cooper stand 6-4 and both played high school football in Utah. Cooper is more highly regarded as a prospect than Falk, who was assessed a two-star rating by Scout.com and later walked on to the Cougars, but the former’s experience suggests he could develop into the same sort of high-volume triggerman head coach Mike Leach needs to crank his Air Raid offense.”
Larson says Cooper has the arm strength to “make any throw you want him to,” but he doesn’t often get to show it off. “When you look at highlight videos for the nation’s top quarterbacks, the first four minutes are deep throws, but they have guys who can run 4.3 40s,” he says. “We have a couple of guys who are fast, but not that kind of fast. We throw a ton of intermediate passes.”
In Lehi’s offense, Cooper has had to learn to read defenses, which will help him adapt to the college game. Larson believes he has the physical abilities to compete at that level, but notes, “The big question is the mental aspect; most top (prep) quarterbacks have never had to compete (for the starting job). In college, they’re no longer the guy. They’re going up against the best.”Comment on this story
Cooper has started his senior year with a big statement and over the weekend he took time to savor it briefly. He watched the game on video and then watched the replay on TV. “It was cool to see it from a different perspective, like a fan,” he says. After the game, he made a midnight stop at McDonald’s — “I was starved; I hadn’t eaten since the pre-game meal at 4” — and got home at 1:15. Wired by the events of the night, he couldn’t fall asleep until 2:30.
“It’s an exciting time,” he says. “I’ve put in a lot of hard work, and it’s starting to pay off.”