FRANKFORT — Cooper presented its case for the defense Friday night, winning a unanimous decision in the court of football known as the Class 5A regional finals.
A.J. Collins rushed for 172 yards and three touchdowns to lead to the Jaguars to a 40-27 victory over Franklin County's high-powered Flyers.
"We told our kids going into it we weren't going to shut them down," Cooper Coach Randy Borchers said. "We told them if we can hold them to 35 points we probably had a good shot at winning the ball game, and we actually held them underneath that."
Franklin, leading the state with a 59-point scoring average, was held to 142 yards on the ground and 333 total.
"Their defensive line, their defense, did a great job of tackling," Flyers Coach Chris Tracy said. "They had a great defensive scheme. They're good up front and they're big-sized kids, not fat and lazy, and they get after it."
The Jaguars (11-1) will face Harlan County in the semifinals.
"It didn't end, obviously, the way we wanted it to," Tracy said of his Flyers (12-2). "But they've got a lot to be proud of. Winning 12 games isn't something we've done in a long time and these seniors have raised the bar for our football program."
Cooper led 24-20 at halftime, getting three TDs and two-point conversions.
Quarterback Tyler Morris scored on a 5-yard run, while Avery Bricking and Collins had TD runs of 27 and 11 yards, respectively.
The Jaguars, averaging 216.3 rushing yards per game, had 216 at intermission and finished with 333 on 50 tries.
Cooper yielded an average of 11 points in its first 11 games.
"We knew we had a good defense all along, but we wanted to show it against a very good offense. ... That's a very good team over there," said Aaron Morgan, who had two of Cooper's three interceptions. "Coaches got us ready and they told me they wanted me to shut down their best player, and I did that to the best of my ability."
Franklin opened the scoring on quarterback Logan Woodside's 3-yard run.
The Flyers added first-half Ryan Timmons touchdowns of 23 yards — on a pass from Woodside — and 57 yards.
Franklin took the second-half kickoff and moved from its 48 to the Cooper 14 before Morgan picked off a pass on his 7 and returned it 65 yards.
That led to Collins' 27-yard touchdown run.
Franklin got an early fourth-quarter score on Woodside's 6-yard pass to Chris Roberts, but Cooper countered with Collins' third touchdown of the night, a 12-yarder, with 5:56 left.
"It was a great game. They're a really good team. And I'm just happy for our team," Collins said. "We played a hell of a game tonight. The line did really well, just leading me through."
Collins got his 172 yards on 26 carries.
Timmons led Franklin with 81 yards on 11 carries, plus 39 yards on four receptions. He was limited to one kick return of 4 yards.
"Aaron Morgan just did his job on Timmons tonight with the deep ball, and I think we frustrated them," Borchers said. "They're such a big-play team, and we kept telling them, 'They're going to score on us, but we can't give up the big play.' ... They've just got a team with a lot of athletes. We don't have those athletes, but we've got a bunch of kids that play well together and play as a team."
Cooper's Kagan Strok totaled seven tackles. Woodside led Franklin with eight.
Cooper 16 8 8 8—40
Franklin County 14 6 0 7—27
FC—Logan Woodside 3 run (Zachary Durham kick); C—Tyler Morris 5 run (Morris run); FC—Ryan Timmons 23 pass from Woodside (Durham kick); C—Avery Bricking 27 run (Morris run); FC—Timmons 57 run (pass failed); C—A.J. Collins 11 run (Collins run); C—Collins 27 run (Morris run); FC—Chris Roberts 6 pass from Woodside (Durham kick); C—Collins 12 run (Morris run). Records—C: 11-1; FC: 12-2.