It was the fourth straight appearance in the 5AAAAA section final for the Robbinsdale Cooper football team, but the Hawks came up just short in a 28-21 loss at top-seeded Spring Lake Park.
Second-seeded Cooper (7-3 overall) trailed by 20 points in the fourth quarter but didn’t give up, scoring twice.
Sophomore quarterback Joe Russell – who finished 21-for-30 for 367 yards, three touchdowns and an interception – first hit freshman tight end Jaxon Howard for a 2-yard touchdown pass with just under nine minutes to play.
He later connected on a 22-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver David Connors with 1:15 left.
The Hawks tried for the onside kick but couldn’t recover, however.
Cooper took an 8-7 lead in the first quarter after an 80-yard touchdown pass from Joe Russell to senior Joseph Law. Senior running back Sherrod Russell then ran for a two-point conversion.
The Panthers scored the next three touchdowns.
Zach Dunbar ran for a 6-yard touchdown with 18 seconds left in the first half, but the two-point conversion pass failed to keep Cooper’s deficit at 13-8.
Dunbar ran for his second touchdown in the third quarter on a 14-yard run, and Brian Orellana added a two-point conversion run to make it 21-8.
Henry Dennis made it 28-8 with a 30-yard touchdown run with 1:26 left in the third. Dennis also scored on a 35-yard run in the first quarter.
Spring Lake Park outrushed the Hawks 302-45. Dennis had 169 yards on 17 carries, and Dunbar had 115 yards on 21 carries. Sherrod Russell led Cooper with 48 yards on 15 carries.
Law finished with 114 yards on three receptions. Senior wide receiver Rashawn Keten had 79 yards on six receptions, and senior Cornelius Wooten had three catches for 65 yards.
Senior linebacker Malik Wilson finished with nine tackles, and seniors Kirk Henderson and Jabari Carr-Manning added seven tackles each. Senior defensive back Jayden Beard had six tackles, and junior Raheem Akindele, Wooten and Howard both had five tackles.
Seniors Jermaine Collier, Benjamin Timlin, Manasseh Williams, Taureen Cain, Seandell Carter, Treon Jones, Coran Godbold, Kellen Andler, Jacob Thomas, Walter West, Alex Martinez, Amari Townsend, Seth Gentry, Damarri Bankhead, Traveontay Prowell, Keten, Law, Beard, Wilson, Sherrod Russell, Wooten, Henderson and Carr-Manning all played in their final high school game.
Together they have been a part of a program that has made four straight section finals and have had a 32-8 record in the past four seasons.
Offensively, the only returner for the skill positions was Wooten, and he finished with 31 receptions for 671 yards and 10 touchdowns. Keten also stepped up and caught 33 passes for 370 yards and four touchdowns.
Sherrod Russell was the lead running back this season with 966 yards and 10 touchdowns on 202 carries.
Joe Russell, who has two more years to lead the Hawks at quarterback, also grew up on the field as a first-year starter. He was 139-for-201 for 1,972 yards, 20 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also rushed for five touchdowns.
Defensively, Godbold, Andler, Wilson, Carter and Beard combined for 248 tackles, 9 1/2 sacks, five fumble recoveries and two interceptions. Cain added 30 tackles and three interceptions.