Player Profile: Pam Pack rallies around Ethan Cooper, family in win

Published 9:33 am Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Washington’s game on Friday was about more than winning and losing. Emotions flowed freely for starting center Ethan Cooper as his father, Greg Cooper, was honored at halftime for his battle with ALS.

It was all in accordance with the “Pam Pack family” mantra. Players, coaches and fans all have a sense of pride in their football team and the community it represents. It’s been a focal point of speeches given by the likes of Jimmy Williams. Taking time at halftime to recognize Cooper for his contributions to the program was a no brainer.

“We talk a lot about pride in our hometown and our team being a family,” coach Jon Blank said. “These kids, even through some of the toughest moments of the season, have supported each other. … These kids love Ethan, and Greg has been a big contributor to our program.

“These kids really wanted to win this game for him.”

Greg Cooper throws up a “W” while being honored at halftime on Friday.

Blank said the team rallied around the idea of playing for the Coopers all week. It energized them for practice, and the emotional was evident under the lights on Friday night.

Ethan Cooper, a team captain, was visibly determined as leaders from both teams met for the pre-game coin toss. So, too, were his Pam Pack teammates. They made an instant splash by recovering a muffed kickoff to get the ball to start the game.

The emotion never wavered as the game unfolded. Cooper and company managed it well. It was a source of energy rather than any sort of detriment to on-field performance.

“I don’t really know how to explain the feeling. It was awesome,” Cooper said. “All the guys believed. We did it for my dad. … It felt awesome. It made me feel really good that everybody supported us.”

Cooper’s work at center helped to lead an outstanding effort from the entire offensive line. That allowed for running backs Ka’ci Foreman and Hykeem Ruffin to rush for a combined 506 yards and six touchdowns.

“They played hard, but we just blew them off the ball,” Cooper said with a chuckle.

Blank added, “I think it was a combination of the kids wanting to play for each other, plus they’re starting to believe they can do it. Sometimes one little thing can trigger a positive emotional outcome that can get you to a big win.”

Washington hopes all the emotions behind Friday triggered more than one win. Cooper and the Pam Pack offense had its most impressive outing since scoring 53 points at Southwest Edgecombe two years ago. The trend needs to continue through the final three games of the season for there to be any chance of a postseason appearance.

For now, though, Friday was a microcosm of what makes Washington and Beaufort County great. The way the players, coaches and the entire community united to support the Coopers — and how it helped lead to a much-needed win on the field — was truly special.