During spring practice, Gilbert coach Chad Leaphart was worried about his defense when it had trouble tackling Catriez Cook.
It turns out opposing defenses have had the same problem when trying to stop the 6-foot-2, 200-pound senior.
Cook has been the top running back in the Midlands, and put together another monster game Friday against then-No. 4 Strom Thurmond. He rushed for a career-high 287 yards and five touchdowns, and also caught two passes for 30 yards in the win over the previously unbeaten Rebels to earn his second The State’s Offensive Player of the Week award this season.
Hammond’s Henry Locke earned the Defensive Player of the Week honors.
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“In spring practice, we were trying to find a running back. So we let him carry it a few times and we just couldn’t tackle him,” Leaphart said. “I knew then he was going to be our guy, but I was worried maybe we just couldn’t tackle anyone. Come to find out, everyone is having trouble tackling him.”
Cook leads the Midlands in rushing with 1,367 yards and 20 total TDs, and is on pace to break Jakayus Leaphart’s school rushing record of 2,004 yards set in 2014.
Cook has achieved “rockstar” status in the town of Gilbert, according to Leaphart, and that was evident last week when the team made a few visits to the elementary schools. He was signing autographs and arm wrestling with the kids.
Still, Cook feels he has a lot to prove. He was passed over for the Shrine Bowl and wasn’t one of the five Mr. Football finalists announced last week.
“As long as I make North-South, I am fine with it. (I) wanted to play in the Shrine Bowl. I guess I’ve got to show everyone I should have been picked,” Cook said.
“He has been playing with a little chip on his shoulder,” Leaphart said. “We as a team have been playing with the chip on our shoulder.”
Cook’s performance each week continues to generate more college interest. Newberry offered him last month and then Old Dominion and Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College. South Carolina is showing interesting in Cook and extended a preferred walk-on invitation last week.
The Gamecocks, however, are close to being full for their Class of 2017. USC has 21 commitments for 2017, including tailback Kyshaun Bryan (5-10, 190) of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
“I wouldn’t mind playing there,” Cook said of South Carolina.
“Lots of the bigger schools, their classes are full by now but the interest is definitely picking up,” Leaphart said. “He will end up somewhere.”