The Park Center and Robbinsdale Cooper football teams kicked off their 2017 campaigns when the two teams faced off at Robbinsdale Cooper High School Aug. 31. While the Hawks came out on top 39-12, players from both sides stood out during the contest. With a few days to reflect, here, in no particular order, are the top five impressive players from the game.
Quarterback Cameron King– Robbinsdale Cooper
The Cooper senior quarterback was an All-District pick after a 2016 season that saw him rack up 1, 617 yards and 13 touchdown passes, but, after the way he played against Park Center in the season opener, it appears he is ready to take his game up a notch in 2017. King, after a slow start, got the ball rolling on offense with a well-thrown 58-yard touchdown pass to NDSU-commit Phoenix Sproles to begin the scoring. King threw for 217 yards and four touchdown passes in the game to lead the Hawks offense, but also threw two interceptions in the red zone, which kept the Hawks from extending their lead in the third quarter. As King works to build rapport with a mostly new receiving unit, we should look for him to lower his mistakes and continue to hit his athletic wideouts for big plays.
Wide receiver Levante Parker– Park Center
Parker and the Park Center passing offense got off to a slow start, but Parker helped his team get on a roll with two impressive touchdown catches in the third quarter. The first touchdown came on a play in which Parker worked his way back to his scrambling quarterback, caught a pass from 10 yards out and sprinted to the end zone to complete a 41-yard score. The second came on a go-route later in the quarter, where Parker out-jumped his defender, who had solid position on Parker, in the back of the end zone for a 36-yard touchdown. As the season continues and Parker continues to get comfortable in the Pirates' offense, head coach Paul Strong will hope to see more big plays out of his athletic receiver.
Quarterback Jemal Brown– Park Center
Brown and junior quarterback Tanner Stein traded off quarters to begin the game, but Strong, after seeing Brown work with the offense in the first quarter, gave his senior quarterback the reins in the second half. Brown rewarded Strong's confidence with two touchdown passes in the third quarter. Brown had been working on keeping his eyes downfield when forced out of the pocket and, in doing so, was able to find an open Parker, who worked his way back toward the line of scrimmage, and watch his wide receiver convert a 41-yard touchdown. Brown continued to capitalize on the athleticism of his receiving corps, as he connected on a 59-yard pass to junior Mitch Maier on a strong throw while on the run. Brown also showed arm strength on a well-located 36-yard touchdown pass to Parker on a go-route. As Brown's confidence rises, look for him to continue to work with his athletic teammates to continue to provide big plays for the Pirates.
Linebacker Onte Burns– Robbinsdale Cooper
Seeing Burns, a recent Montana State-commit, find success in the season opener should be no surprise for prep football fans in Minnesota. Burns showed his skills on a consistent basis last season, and his talent and tackling ability, despite being undersized for the linebacker position, has helped him become the cornerstone of the Cooper defense. Burns made several key stops in the Hawks' season-opening victory, but the biggest play he made came in the second quarter, when he showed off his speed on a 62-yard interception return for a touchdown. Burns injured his elbow in the second half and was removed from the game for precautionary reasons, but fans should expect to see more big plays from Burns as the season progresses.
Linebacker Nate Hill– Robbinsdale Cooper
Hill, like many of his counterparts on the Hawks, plays with a unique level of intensity in that he always looks to be near the football. Hill had an opportunity to showcase his skills on a pair of kick returns, where he was able to find the edge and work his way forward for a solid gain, while also showing his toughness by running into Park Center defenders and forcing them to make a play. Hill was met with little resistance on his biggest play of the game, a 6-yard interception return for a touchdown, but, as the season goes on, Hill will look to make more and more plays in order to help his team earn a state tournament berth.