Jonesboro junior Jason Sears will split time this season at the linebacker and quarterback spot. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
JONESBORO — This was looked upon as being the breakout year for Jonesboro quarterback Zerrick Cooper, who entered the season as one of the top junior prospects in the state.
But Cooper will not get that chance this season to try and lead Jonesboro into the playoffs.
A follow-up visit to the doctor to gain clearance for this season revealed that Cooper had a tear of his ACL and it would require surgery.
Cooper had surgery late last week and is sidelined for the season.
While the Cardinals are saddened by the news, they vowed to keep alive its goal of making a deep playoff run.
“In our meeting the other day, I looked them in the eye and asked were they willing to go the extra mile,” Jonesboro offensive coordinator Nathan Wardlaw said. “Everybody on the offense says they are ready to take their game to another level. I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I said this didn’t hurt, but the goals on our team haven’t changed.”
Juniors Jason Sears and William Wise are now locked into a battle for the starting job. They will likely split time at the quarterback spot.
Both are athletic as Sears is the team’s starting linebacker and Wise plays some at safety.
“We are a little more athletic at the quarterback spot, but Cooper was more of a pure passer,” Wardlaw said.
Sears played some at quarterback last season in blowout wins while Wise lead the program’s JV squad to a 2-2-1 record.
“I’ve got to step it up a lot now that Coop is gone,” Sears said. “I’m going to do whatever it takes to help this team.”
“It is a challenge, but I have to step up and grow up,” Wise said.
Both have been splitting time at the quarterback spot since Cooper when down with a knee injury following a 7-on-7 tournament at North Gwinnett High last month.
“It is not like they have just now been thrust into this spot,” Wardlaw said. “They have been taking the first-team reps ever since we started preseason practice. We have a good supporting cast with some good skill players. I think we will be in good shape.”
The team will get to measure themselves on Friday when they travel to Tyrone to take on No. 3 Sandy Creek in a non-region game to open the season. Sandy Creek is coming off a 21-13 win over then-No. 2 Archer of Class AAAAAA in the Corky Kell Classic.
“We are going to be pretty much the same, but implement some things that work towards Jason and William’s skill set,” Wardlaw said.
Cooper was just coming into his own this spring as he received several scholarship offers including ones from Miami, North Carolina State, Kentucky and Clemson.
He was also invited to the prestigious RisingSenior All-Star Game in December at Atlanta’s Grady Stadium.
Last season, Cooper split time at quarterback with senior Mario Atkinson. They helped lead the Cardinals to a 6-4 record. Cooper threw for 1,200 yards on 83 of 156 passing with six touchdowns.
Jonesboro lost 20-19 in overtime in the Region 4-AAAA play-in game against Locust Grove, causing the Cardinals to miss out on a state playoff berth.
Cooper was also a starting safety for the Cardinals, but has been offered as a quarterback.
“I know Coop will be there on the sidelines helping us,” Sears said. “I like playing linebacker, but I also like the quarterback position.”