Big and ornery, Lawson proves he’s one of state’s best on both sides of ball

WEBSTER CITY – His legs look like tree trunks and his arms are big and strong enough to fill the bill as a pull-up bar for anyone. His neck, that disappeared long ago.

This is Cooper Lawson, Webster City’s 6-foot-2, 265-pound (or bigger) junior offensive guard and defensive tackle. He’s not the sole reason why the Lynx have been so stout up front on both sides of the ball this season on their way to crashing the party of the Class 3A state semifinals, but he’s a pretty good place to start.

It’s not like Lawson has emerged from the shadows though. His talents were recognized when he still called middle school home. He first entered the Lynx starting lineup as a fullback during his freshman season in 2014 and he followed it up with a second-team all-state sophomore season in 2015.

And this year? He’s a no-doubt all-stater … on both sides of the ball.

“He’s very good,” WCHS head coach Bob Howard said. “He’s one of the smartest football players I’ve coached and he’s so physical, and he’s one of the strongest kids I’ve ever coached … he moves well. He still needs to improve that, but, yeah, he’s dang good.”

Lawson will have his chance to perform under the statewide spotlight this evening when sixth-ranked WCHS (10-1) collides with 10th-ranked Glenwood (9-2) in the semifinal round of the Class 3A state playoffs inside the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls. He’s not exactly a hidden gem, but prep football fans across the state that aren’t familiar with him are about to get a crash course.

As the pulling guard on the Lynx run-oriented single-wing offense, Lawson is out front opening the running lanes on a lot of the off-tackle plays with tailback Robert Frederiksen. Those have worked out pretty well; Frederiksen, a first-year starter, ranks No. 2 in the class in rushing yards with 1,692.

Here’s the thing: Opposing teams have openly admitted to keying on Lawson this season and yet WCHS has still piled up nearly 4,000 yards on the ground. Again, Lawson isn’t a one-man show – fellow linemen Ashton High, Chris Seeley, Zac Lucero, Nathan Reed and Bryer McCoy should receive plenty of the credit as well – but the three-year starter is the face of the front. Teams can try to prepare for his physical gifts, but adjusting to his size, speed and athleticism when the ball is put into play is another thing altogether.

His ceiling is limitless and his future is indeed bright.

“Right now, at the age he is and the way he looks, (Division I football) should be his goal,” Howard, a 40-year veteran of the sideline and a Hall of Fame coach, said. “The more we watch him, I think it’s probably as an offensive lineman. He’s tall enough to be a guard or center at the next level.”

But right now, the offensive line might not even be his best position. Lawson and Lynx nose tackle James Cherry form one of the best duos on the interior of the defense line in the class. Hesitant to believe that? Opponents aren’t, which is why most haven’t even tried to run the ball. WCHS hasn’t allowed a team to rush for triple digits since Week 3 of the regular season and only one individual has eclipsed 100 yards. During the team’s current eight-game winning streak, the opposition has averaged a measly 53.6 ground yards per game.

“Cooper has had a great season for us (at defensive tackle) and with James, that gives us two pretty physical guys inside,” Howard said. “Right now, he’s as good a defensive lineman as I’ve ever coached and I’ve coached the Webb boys (Chris and Scott at Sigourney-Keota) who both played at Iowa and Danny Bower (also at S-K) who was an All-American at UNI. Technique wise, he’s way ahead of them.”

Lawson’s college decision may be more difficult than just picking a school though. First, he’ll have to choose a sport.

Once the football season is over, Lawson will head straight into the wrestling room where he will be one of the favorites to win the 2A heavyweight crown in February. He reached the state final as a sophomore and had to begrudgingly accept the silver after falling to two-time state champion Carter Isley of Albia.

Which sport will he choose? That’s a debate for another day. For now, just enjoy watching him play. Kids his size with the athleticism in tow don’t come around very often.