It took Cooper's Jerod Lonaker long time to get starting role, but he's making most of it now

Senior QB is on a record-setting pace
It took Cooper's Jerod Lonaker long time to get starting role, but he's making most of it now
Posted at 10:00 AM, Sep 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-26 16:13:55-04

UNION, Ky. -- Jerod Lonaker waited a long time to get his shot as the starting quarterback for the Cooper High School football team and the strong-armed senior is wasting none of his final season while on a record-breaking pace for the high-powered Jaguars offense.

Lonaker has thrown for 1,412 yards through five games -- only 685 yards shy of Will Ludwig's single-season school record of 2,097 yards set in 11 games in 2013. He has tossed 13 touchdown passes and has completed 81 of 142 pass attempts with only three interceptions. He has connected at least 12 times with four different receivers and with seven overall. He has thrown for more than 340 yards in a game twice, with 343 in a 45-14 win over Newport Central Catholic Aug. 26 and with 344 Sept. 9 in a 44-14 win over Campbell County.

He'll look to continue to put up big numbers for the Jaguars (3-2) Friday at Lexington Catholic (1-4) at 7:30 p.m.

"Obviously, I couldn't do any of that without my offensive line and great receivers," Lonaker said. "But that was always the goal, to come out here and play my best and win. Surprised or not, I'm just really happy with it."

Senior receiver Dante Hendrix leads the host of weapons Lonaker can get the ball to with 24 catches for 487 yards and seven touchdowns. Senior receiver Shea Burns has made 17 catches for 300 yards and two touchdowns. Junior Justin Schlarman and sophomore Mikey Armour have 12 catches apiece and senior running back Jaden Jackson has nine catches out of the backfield to go with 622 yards on the ground. 

"Dante, I'd say, is the best receiver around," Lonaker said. "Besides Dante, we have Shea, who has really stepped up as a first-year starter like me and is doing really well. Jaden is catching the ball really well at running back. They're all doing well and I'm proud of them."

As good as they are, they need a capable quarterback to distribute the ball and Lonaker has been up to the task since his first snap.

"He reads the defense really well and has a solid arm," Hendrix said. "He throws the ball well to our receivers and makes plays. He always gives our receivers a shot. With all the weapons we have, we are very capable."

Lonaker competed for the starting job under center prior to last season, but injured his arm during the summer. Nathan Brown won the job and threw for 2,048 yards in 13 games during his senior season.

"Jerod has always been one of those kids who has been a student of the game and has always sat in the background and learned, taken his reps at the JV level and has taken his reps on the scout team," Cooper coach Randy Borchers said. "He has continually done things to become better. He's reaping the rewards now."

The strong arm has always been there. Admittedly, he still wasn't reading defenses and making the right calls as a junior. But over this summer during seven-on-sevens and at preseason practice, he said he started to catch on.

"He's done a really good job of reading the defense in his pre-snap reads," Borchers said. "He's made good decisions and has been very accurate with his throws.

"The thing that surprises me is just how accurate he's been. In the past, that's one of the things that held him back, with making some poor decisions. He's really grown into the role this year and has made a lot better decisions. As the year goes on, he's getting better and better."

Lonaker and the Jaguars scored at least 42 points in each of the first four games and have scored 203 overall. With five games remaining before the postseason, Cooper is going to look to keep that up and to make some more stops on the defensive side of the ball.

"The biggest thing is we have to get better defensively," Borchers said. "One of the things is, in years past, we've always been a running team and we've been able to control the ball and put drives together and play field position. This year, we've been scoring fast and we've just put our defense on the field a lot more. We have to get better defensively. Offensively, we just want to continue to get better."

That's Lonaker's mindset as well. It's not passing records or personal accolades he's after.

"I just try to make plays for the team so we can win," Lonaker said.