Whitewater football calling on Cooper
That would be Ben Cooper, who not only is back as a head football coach, but it’s at his alma mater, Whitewater High, where he was an All-Southern Lakes Conference defensive lineman on the 1980 WIAA Division 2 state championship team.
Cooper steps up from seven years as a Whippet assistant to succeed Doug Parker, who has been promoted to full-time assistant principal at Whitewater High.
Jeff Behrens, another Whitewater High graduate, has been named Parker’s successor as athletic director. Behrens, who will teach health and physical education, returns to the Whippets from Horicon, where he was the head wrestling coach.
Whitewater also is close to naming a succcessor to retiring Hugh Gnatzig as boys head basketball coach.
After playing a key role on the late coach Jim Warren’s
11-0 team in 1980, Cooper played football for coach Forrest Perkins and Bob Berezowitz at UW-Whitewater. He still remains close to the program as president of the Warhawk Quarterback Club.
Cooper coached two seasons under Warren at Whitewater High and became head football coach of the Whippets’ longtime Southern Lakes rival, Delavan-Darien, in 1997. He led the Comets’ rebuilding program to a 19-20 record in four years, including two WIAA playoff appearances and a conference co-championship in 1999.
In honoring family commitments, Cooper gave up the Delavan-Darien position after the 2000 season.
“It was a family decision, and I needed to spend more time with our kids,” Cooper said.
Now that Cooper’s four children are older, another opportunity in head coaching awaits, and he is excited.
“Absolutely,” he said. “You know, it’s one of those things where I have an opportunity to be back where I started.
“Anybody who has a chance to give back to the school where they were raised has to feel very fortunate,” said Cooper, also a high school guidance counselor. “And the support from the school and the community here is outstanding.’’
Whitewater’s goal is to again become a football standout as a third-year Rock Valley Conference member after 55 storied seasons in the Southern Lakes. In rebuilding from an 0-10 record in 2003, the Whippets went 28-40 and made three WIAA playoff appearances in seven years under Parker, whose teams won 36 games and a Rock Valley championship in the last four of his six years at Palmyra-Eagle.
The Whippets, as the nickname implies, have long been known for their speed and athleticism. And this past year was no exception, with a senior class that contributed to numerous sports, culminated by a WIAA Division 2 state track and field team championship last month.
Cooper’s challenge in football is to take the next step without many of those graduated athletes.
“We obviously need to replace a very good senior class,’’ he said. “But our guys are working very hard to step up and take their place.
“Our summer program has been going very well. We’ve got a lot of guys in the weight room, and our passsing leagues are very strong. We’ve got a lot of excitement and enthusiasm right now.”
Present company included, Cooper assured, as the former Whippet steps back into the coaching limelight.