All eyes in Northern Kentucky will be on the showdown between the Cooper Jaguars and Conner Cougars as the 9 On Your Sidelines and US Marines Backyard Battle tours collide in Hebron for the huge Class 5A tilt between county rivals.
Cooper is enjoying its best start in the school's short history, but in order to accomplish their goal of defending their district title they'll need to pick up a tough road win versus Conner.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Cooper is loaded with starters who play at a high level on both sides of the ball. The trio of quarterback Tyler Morris, running back AJ Collins and receiver Aaron Morgan are dangers to break the big play on offense. Morris, the reigning Class 5A, District 5 Player of the Year accounted for 1,013 yards of total offense and 17 touchdowns. Morgan and Collins have combined for over 1,400 all-purpose yards and 14 scores. Lineman Taylor Centers is one of Northern Kentucky's top defensive players. He has 5.0 sacks in 2012. Avery Bricking, Tyler Brooks, Cory Fussinger, Ricky Martin, Morgan, Collins and Morris make up the core of the Jaguars' defense.
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The Conner offensive attack is ignited by junior quarterback Drew Barker and senior "Mr. Everything" - Cameron Fogle. At the midway point of the season, Barker has thrown for 1,233 yards with 12 passing touchdowns, six rushing scores and 592 yards rushing. Fogle does it all, with 1,118 all-purpose yards, 13 total touchdowns, 34 total tackles on defense and 44.1 yards per punt. Brandon Padgett, Brian Loney and Andrew Way all have at least two touchdown catches. On defense, sophomore linebacker Jacob Warwick leads the team in tackles. Landon Montgomery and Jared Kunkel are tied for the team lead with 3.0 sacks.
TEAM TRENDS: Conner holds a 3-1 advantage in the series. Cooper won at home last season, 20-13. The only loss in the last 10 games for Cooper was to state runner-up Scott County in the 2011 playoffs. The Jaguars have given up 43 total points in on the season. They are allowing just 9.3 points over their last 14 games. Conner has scored at least 30 points in seven straight contests dating back to last fall's playoffs.
COOPER'S KEYS TO VICTORY: The Jaguars will have to maintain a level head and have everybody stay within their means. Emotions will be running high for Conner in this rivalry game not letting that interfere with the Cooper mission, to remain unbeaten, is vital for a win. As good as the defense has been the offense is averaging nearly 33 points per tilt.
CONNER'S KEYS TO VICTORY: The Cougars are going to want to turn this affair into a track meet. In order to do that Conner needs to get an early lead. This will force Cooper to play an up tempo style on offense that they aren't comfortable with. With all that being said a defense that is allowing 33 points per outing is going to have to step up and show that they can keep teams out of the end zone.
PREDICTION: COOPER 31, CONNER 27