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Rusher's collegiate rise began humbly

At only 5-foot-7, Aurren Cooksey was overlooked by many larger schools.
Louisiana College athletics photo

No star running back coming out of high school has dreams of playing junior varsity football. It can be a humbling experience to be relegated to that roster.

But that was the situation Aurren Cooksey found himself in three years ago when he arrived on the Louisiana College campus.

Here was Cooksey, one of the top offensive players in Shreveport, an all-district and all-state selection, forced to start off his college career in what might as well have been a million miles from the spotlight.

“It was hard at the time. I kept wondering why I had to start off on JV because I felt like I was good enough to play [varsity],” Cooksey said.

Cooksey already had a chip on his shoulder. He was overlooked on the recruiting trail by bigger schools because of his size -- he stands only 5-foot-7 -- so having to play JV football in college didn’t do anything to chisel away at that chip.

But there are lessons that can be taken from a situation you have no desire to be in.

“I learned a lot about perseverance and being patient,” Cooksey said. “I had to wait my turn, and good things have come from that. The experience is paying off now.”

Indeed it has as Cooksey is in the midst of his best season yet with the Wildcats. He is coming off an impressive performance against Howard Payne where he gashed the Yellow Jackets defense for a career-high 201 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-7 ASC win.

It marked the third time in four games Cooksey has gone over 100 yards for the Wildcats (3-1, 1-0 ASC), who feature one of the highest scoring offenses in the country, hanging an average of 47.8 points per game on the scoreboard.

With 528 yards and five touchdowns, the senior is one of the top running backs in the country.

“Things are going pretty good so far, but I’m not satisfied,” Cooksey said. “I keep working to get better because my team needs me to be better. I think I have a better understanding of the offense this year, and that has helped me have more success.”

But Cooksey won’t take all of the credit.

“I wouldn’t be anywhere without the offensive line. Those guys have experience and do a great job of blocking,” Cooksey said. “And my coaches have put me in a position to succeed.”

It’s safe to say Cooksey has come a long way in four years. He is third all-time at the school in carries (398) and ranks third in yards as well, rushing for 2,028 yards in his career.

Some of his success goes back to his drive to prove others wrong.

“I wasn’t really getting any offers, but [Louisiana College] kept talking to me, and I decided to go there,” Cooksey said. “At first, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to stay, but once I got to know people, my mind changed. I feel blessed to have this opportunity, especially getting to play in my home state.”

Cooksey’s decision to stay highlights the lessons in perseverance and patience that he took to heart during that first year in college.

Not only has it paid off on the field, but it’s made a difference in the classroom, too.

“It can be a challenge at times going to school and playing football, and the classes only get harder,” Cooksey said. “You just have to find time to study and get your work done. I’ve done a good job of it and have worked hard to be the best student and football player I can be.”

His focus is on helping the Wildcats contend for an ASC championship.

It’s no easy task with three nationally ranked teams in the conference, but Cooksey probably isn’t the person you want to tell about the odds being stacked against you.

“We’re just taking it one game at a time,” Cooksey said. “We feel we have a team that is good enough to compete for a championship.”

And right now, that’s his focus, although he does think about the possibility of playing beyond college.

“After the season is over, I hope I do get an opportunity to play in the NFL or overseas,” Cooksey said. “I feel like I’m good enough to do it.”

Defense propels Bears to big win

Washington capitalized on defensive opportunities to bring an end to Berry’s best start in program history.

The Bears picked off three passes and held the Vikings to a season-low in points in a 34-10 victory Saturday in St. Louis.

Berry, unbeaten through four games entering the SAA battle with Washington, struggled to get on track against the Bears, who improved to 3-1 for the first time since 2008 and put Larry Kindbom within three wins of 200 for his career.

Chandler Elmore, Jake Coon and Andrew Ralph all picked off passes while Ben Marcus forced a fumble, setting the tone for the Bears’ second consecutive win.

Marcus has tallied 35 tackles and recorded his first forced fumble of the year in Saturday’s win. Coon pushes his pick-off total to three and ranks third on the team in tackles with 33.

Ralph has racked up 28 tackles. Elmore has seven.

Washington (3-1) had not allowed less than 21 points until Saturday but rose to the occasion against Berry (4-1), which had scored 34 or more in each of its first four games.

Tigers on the rise

East Texas Baptist kept its best season in program history rolling along in a 60-47 win over Belhaven. The unbeaten 17th-ranked Tigers (4-0) cashed in on a dazzling performance by Dru Smith, who threw for four touchdowns and rushed for two more, fueling an offense that cranked out 592 yards.

Smith has been nothing short of impressive in his first year at signal-caller for the Tigers, throwing for 1,095 yards and 13 touchdowns.

He leads an offense that is averaging a little over 600 yards per game and has scored 44 or more points three times. Chase Sojka has been Smith’s top target, catching 27 passes for 535 yards. He has caught five touchdown passes.

Kangaroos have strong international presence on roster

There is no shortage of international players on the Austin College roster.

The Kangaroos feature four players from overseas, including three from England in Tom Clancy, Josh Keys and Tom Samonig. Michael Magdziak is from Poland. All four are freshmen.

Clancy is having the best season among the rookies, making 16 catches for 159 yards. He has made one touchdown grab as well for an Austin team that is 2-2 overall as it prepares to dive into SCAC play.

Not only do the Kangaroos have international players on the roster, but they also have twins in Tad and Tanner Howard. Tad has tallied four tackles this season.

Sideline notes

Burke Moser set a career-high in passing yards (433) and threw for a pair of touchdowns in Chicago’s 38-34 come-from-behind win over Birmingham-Southern Saturday. Moser completed 37 of his 58 passes, including five on the Maroons’ final drive that ended with Chandler Carroll scoring on a 1-yard run.

John Mowery connected on a 22-yard field goal and drilled all seven of his extra points in Mary Hardin-Baylor’s 66-3 win over McMurry. Mowery, named the ASC Special Teams Player of the Week. He is 31-for-31 on extra-points this season and 2-for-4 on field goals.

Hunter McEachern wasn’t bad in defeat for the Blazers, throwing for 466 yards and five touchdowns. He also scored a rushing touchdown as his impressive freshman season continues. McEachern has thrown for more than 1,500 yards and 12 touchdowns.

If you have a great story idea or notable accomplishments that deserve a mention in this column, feel free to reach out to me at brian.lester@d3sports.com. You can also follow on Twitter @BLester1993

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Brian Lester

Brian Lester is a reporter in Florida. He has 14 years of experience at newspapers in Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio, spending 10 at The Courier in Findlay, Ohio. Lester also writes an Around the Region column for D3hoops.com and wrote Around the Great Lakes for D3football.com from 2012-14. He is a graduate of Eastern Illinois.

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