Last season culminated with 12 tackles for Lincoln Cooley in a season-ending loss to eventual state champion Fenwick.
It turns out, that was just the start for the Sycamore offensive and defensive lineman.
Cooley had another strong defensive year with 45 tackles and three sacks, and he was the main blocker for three 600-yard running backs as the Spartans again reached the Class 5A semifinals, again losing to a private school that would go on to win a state title – this time Nazareth.
Cooley was a part of a senior class that included nine three-year starters, including himself. He was a three-year all-conference selection, helping the Spartans go 6-0 to win an Interstate 8 title in the COVID-shortened spring 2021 campaign then reach the semis each of the past two years.
For his accomplishments and leadership Cooley is named the 2022 Daily Chronicle Football Player of the Year for the second straight season
“It was really fun,” Cooley said. “Even with the outcome we had, it was still a really successful year. We accomplished a lot. It was a good run.”
The Spartans were 12-1 this season and recorded six shutouts. Five of them were against playoff teams and two were in the postseason.
“I think the legacy from a record standpoint stands for itself,” Sycamore coach Joe Ryan said. “But it’s also a legacy of they showed what to do to be successful. This doesn’t happen. You don’t just show up and have three-year starters. It just doesn’t happen that way. It’s through a lot of hard work in the offseason, a lot of hard work in the weight room. They really enjoyed competing with each other and against each other sometimes in practice. ... That isn’t always there for everybody, and I think our younger kids got to see how competitive this group is.”
Ryan said Cooley was at the center of that.
“He worked every day, worked hard in the offseason,” Ryan said. “His weight totals are as high as we’ve had with anybody. He didn’t rest on his laurels after his junior year. We worked and improved to get bigger and stronger. That’s what made him so dominating.”
Ryan said he wasn’t sure if Cooley would be able to improve on his 2021 campaign. But that was goal No. 1, and both player and coach said that mission was accomplished.
“That was one of my goals at the beginning of the year, to improve and be better than I was last year,” Cooley said. “I think I did.”
Ryan said Cooley needed to work on finishing his blocks offensively and said it seemed like he took joy in finishing the play on top of an opposing player.
It was a notion Cooley agreed with.
“It’s just dominating the guy in front of you and running someone over,” Cooley said. “We’ve got to lead the way for them. It’s fun leading the way for them and seeing them achieve all that.”
Cooley said he hasn’t finalized any college plans, including which sport he wants to play – he’s also a state qualifying wrestler.
Ryan said he feels Cooley can be an asset to a college team and thinks coaches are too caught up in things like height and weight, something that works against the 6-foot, 290-pound Cooley.
“I understand about measurables, but I also understand what a really good football player is,” Ryan said. “I know he can compete at the next level. People see him, maybe a shade under 6-foot, 300 pounds, and they don’t think he has the arm length to go against some of the bigger offensive linemen. ... A lot of football players with not quite the right measurables can win you a lot of football games at a lot of levels.”