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ERIC SONDHEIMER/ ON HIGH SCHOOLS

Citrus Hill's Deontae Cooper is having a super season

The senior leads the state in rushing, and his workload included 60 carries in one game.

October 17, 2009|ERIC SONDHEIMER | ON HIGH SCHOOLS

When it comes to wearing a Superman costume on Halloween, the only high school football player who truly qualifies for such an honor is running back Deontae Cooper of Perris Citrus Hill.

On Sept. 18 in a game against Temecula Great Oak, he carried the ball 60 times. That's as many handoffs as some players get in a season, let alone a single game. Some questioned the sanity of Coach Doug Dubois, who pleads not guilty.

"I don't think we realized it," Dubois said. "We got into a groove. To be honest, it was working and we kept feeding him the rock. He played defense too. He's a physical specimen. He's a unique young man."

When the game was completed, Cooper had rushed for 412 yards and scored four touchdowns in a 30-20 victory. The next morning, when he woke up at 7 o'clock to read the newspaper, he felt the hard day's work.

"I was sore," he said. "My calves felt like they were about to explode. They stayed tight like I was going to catch a cramp every second. Everybody was kind of shocked. It was like, 'Oh my God, are you serious?' I was shocked. The adrenaline was pumping."

Cooper is an 18-year-old senior whom Citrus Hill has always turned to in a time of need. The team has won 34 consecutive games, the longest current winning streak in the state.

On Friday night, Citrus Hill (6-0) defeated Riverside Rubidoux, 62-12. Cooper rushed for 107 yards in nine carries, with two touchdowns. He also had 12 tackles.

Cooper entered this week as the top rusher in California and now has 1,472 yards and 19 touchdowns. He has a 3.5 grade-point average and plans to graduate in December so he can enroll at Washington in January and compete for the starting tailback position during spring practice.

He's 6 feet, 192 pounds and very strong. He bench presses 345 pounds, power cleans 315 pounds and squats 415 pounds. One of his off-season workouts is to strap a tire and rim to his waist and run up a hill next to his house.

"I run up and jog down," he said. "It's mainly for my power and works on speed."

There are some who question his speed, but Dubois said, "I don't know what tape they are watching because I've never seen him caught from behind."

His father, Willie, played football at Gardena High and San Jose State. He has a twin brother, Deontrae, who plays receiver for the Hawks. The similar names cause many to ask, "Man, what were your parents thinking?"

What people think of Cooper is nothing but admiration.

"His work ethic is amazing," Dubois said.

When Cooper steps into a weight room, people watch, then are compelled to follow because of his leadership.

"I'm a positive leader," he said. "I steer my peers in a good direction. That's important to me."

Because he's finishing school in December, his high school days are dwindling, and he intends to enjoy each remaining day.

"It's been a fun ride," he said. "I'm just enjoying the high school experience."

But more challenges beckon.

"I just feel I have a chance to start [at Washington]," he said. "I don't want to waste time. I want to be ahead of the game. I need to buckle down and take it to the next level."

He has potentially eight more weeks to pound high school opponents with his running, receiving, blocking and tackling, so hold off on the farewells.

"I'm still a Hawk," he said.

--

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

twitter.com/latsondheimer

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