Friday Night Hero: Davie County receiver Cooper Wall
By Mike London
MOCKSVILLE — For Davie County junior wideout Cooper Wall, the key to success isn’t size (almost 6-foot-3) or speed (fast).
Instead, it’s simply a hatred for being tackled.
“Getting tackled hurts,” Wall said. “I hate being tackled. I run as fast as I can and do everything that I can to keep from getting tackled.”
He’s good at what he does. There have been 24 plays so far, in a career that still has a long way to go, on which no one has managed to tackle Wall. That’s meant 144 points for the War Eagles.
There were 25 catches and four touchdowns as a varsity freshman. He still thought of himself as a basketball player then, waiting impatiently for another hoops season to come around. He still saw himself as that springy kid who had scored 30 points for South Davie Middle School in its showdown with North Davie in the Davie High gym.
Things changed Wall’s sophomore season. He was only the second-best receiver on his own team (Davie also had record-setting Ben Ellis), but he was one of the state’s best. He had an ungodly season for a sophomore — 67 catches, 1,104 yards, nine TDs — and he developed a special connection with gifted quarterback Chris Reynolds.
“I was definitely basketball-first most of my life, said Wall, who was coached by his father, Brent, in both sports at South Davie Middle. “But things changed when I had so much football success my sophomore year. I really loved to go up and get the football and I felt like I wanted that ball more than anybody. So now I’m football-first. I didn’t play AAU basketball last summer for the first time. I focused on football. My future is probably football.”
Ellis, who had 116 catches and 17 TDs last season, is now a member of the Charlotte 49ers. That’s meant some adjustments for Wall, who is now the go-to receiver for an exciting Davie team that blitzed the Central Piedmont Conference, owns a 10-1 record and probably will be a No. 1 seed when playoff pairings are announced on Saturday.
“Not having Ben Ellis, that means the best defender is going to be covering me, but we’ve still had a lot of success throwing the ball,” Wall said. “Overall, I believe the receiving corps we have this year (Beau Byerly, Mason Wilson and Tyler Roberts are the other key guys) is stronger than last year’s, and it’s probably one of the best anywhere.”
Wall says he saw Davie’s tremendous season coming, and he’s convinced it actually started when the War Eagles fought fiercely before losing to Scotland last season in the first round of the 4A playoffs. Davie was a 15 seed. Scotland was a 2. Davie lost 44-36. Wall had eight catches for 129 yards, including a 52-yard touchdown.
“We knew with the leadership we had coming back that this was going to be our year,” Wall said. “We’ve beaten a lot of big rivals Davie hasn’t beaten in a while. We’ve put it together — offense, defense and special teams.”
Reynolds, Wall and their teammates made a statement opening night — a 39-29 win at Greensboro Page. No one has beaten Page since. Wall had 11 catches for 235 yards and touchdowns of 40 and 57 yards.
In the 41-0 rout of West Rowan the following week, Reynolds hurt an ankle early. Wall had a quiet night, but his 21-yard TD catch was a thing of beauty. He made a stop-and-go spin that left a West cornerback scrambling on the ground.
“I was supposed to go 5 yards, Chris would make the pump-fake, and then I’d take off,” Wall said. “But the corner was up so tight, I only went 3 yards. Chris pumped, he broke, and I was able to get by him. I ran to the corner, and Chris put the ball right there.”
When Davie went to powerhouse Greensboro Dudley in Week 3, the season threatened to take a disastrous U-turn. Davie kicked two field goals for a 6-0 lead. Dudley came back with a big play to lead, 7-6, and then with Davie trying to recapture momentum in the second quarter, Wall went down.
“I ran a seam route, and Chris threw the ball kind of high,” Wall said. “That’s uncharacteristic of him, but he was hurting with the ankle. I went up to get it, and a DB (North Carolina Central-bound Brion Seagraves) came in and hit me right in the ribs. It was scary. It was like a shock went through my whole body.”
Wall was down a long time before being taken from the field on a stretcher to Brenner’s Hospital in Greensboro. The loss of Wall took the steam out of the War Eagles. They lost, 32-6.
With Reynolds hobbling and with Wall, who spent two nights in the hospital, diagnosed with cracked ribs, Davie’s dream season could’ve turned sour.
Davie coaches made the decision to rest Reynolds for the remaining two non-conference games. If they could get him healthy for the start of CPC play at R.J. Reynolds on Sept. 23, they still had a chance. As far as Wall, they crossed their fingers.
Without Wall and Reynolds, Davie beat a North Rowan team that would go 9-2 with defense, winning, 7-6. Then Davie got past a struggling Hopewell team in a sloppy game, and it was time for conference play.
Reynolds was ready. So was Wall.
“With cracked ribs, there’s not much you can do except sit around and wait for them to heal,” Wall said. “Having to watch two games was really hard, but, after that, I felt fine.”
On Davie’s first offensive play against RJ. Reynolds, the War Eagles wanted to find out right away how healthy Reynolds and Wall were.
“That first play, the call comes in and the ball is coming to me, and that was a great feeling that they had confidence in me,” Wall said.
Wall faked inside, then blew past a corner straight down the sideline. A safety arrived late, but Wall made the catch, and Davie led 7-0.
And then a few minutes later, Reynolds and Wall connected again.
Davie hasn’t been stopped since then. Wall’s career stats are now up to 142 catches for 2,234 yards.
Davie played for the outright conference title at home on Friday against Parkland, the final regular season game at War Eagle Stadium in Mocksville, and started slowly.
Wall had catches of 30 and 20 yards to get Davie’s first scoring drive started, but the War Eagles led only 10-0 at halftime.
“We weren’t moving the ball much because Parkland was defending us completely different than anything we’d seen from them on film,” Wall said. “But then we started running the ball, and we’ve got great runners, including Chris. We started getting 5 and 6 yards at a time.”
Davie won 34-0, becoming only the fourth Davie team to win 10 games in a regular season.
The first Davie team to win 10 — the 1965 squad that ran the table in the North Piedmont Conference — included All-NPC backs Donald Beck, Earl Shoaf, David Robertson and Randall Ward.
Ward, who went on to coach Davie County and West Rowan football teams, is Wall’s grandfather.
Wall said the sudden coaching change (Tim Devericks replaced DeVore Holman when the War Eagles were 7-1) “came out of nowhere and shook us up,” but the War Eagles have kept marching forward.
Now they are preparing for their playoff opener in Mocksville on Nov. 18, and the receiver who hates to get tackled will be ready to make an impact.
“We believe we can win a state championship,” Wall said. “It’s something we have to do.”