WEST LAFAYETTE – Evan Cooke wants to pay tribute where it belongs.
Without Maurice Reimer, the senior West Lafayette forward doesn’t end up with the garish stats he put up in his last season of football.
The duo became an almost unstoppable two-man attack for opponents Red Devil, leading to an unbeaten regular season and yet another Sectional Championship.
Cooke finished with 34 goals and 23 assists, adding to a long list of playoff honors by being named Newspaper & Mail Male Football Player of the Year.
“This year it’s taken it up a notch,” Cooke said. “Last year was more me and Austin (Pacheco, the 2021 J&C Player of the Year). He really brought it. He made some big jumps and I feel like I made big jumps too.”
Cooke scored the only goal in West Lafayette’s state championship loss last season.
In that season’s finale, a 2–1 Regional Championship loss to Class 2A runners-up Mishawaka Marian, Cooke again scored the team’s only goal. He had at least one point in the Red Devil’s 22 games.
“He’s 6-foot-4, 215 (pounds) and runs surprisingly fast for his size. He was ready to be physical,” said Cooke’s dad Aaron, who resigned as a college football coach from West Lafayette eight years after the season. “He kind of got the Shaq (Basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal) treatment from defenses, or (Purdue center) Zach Edey is the more modern version of that.
“He had a lot of guys hanging on and tapping on him and trying to get him off the ball. He was, with that size and that physique, able to handle it. It was probably almost an advantage that he was physical with them. He didn’t “I don’t get noticed as the one who creates fouls. That height is very rare to see in football in general and his athleticism has been a huge plus for his success.”
Evan Cooke’s future is in baseball, where he is an outstanding pitcher and third baseman.
But football is something he is equally passionate about and after an outstanding junior season with 22 goals, Cooke started his senior campaign with 10 consecutive games scoring at least one goal.
Cooke has provided multiple goals in a game 10 times and multiple assists eight times, leading West Lafayette to a 20-1-1 season. No performance was more impressive than Cooke who dropped a pair of assists in a minute in the dying moments of a regional semi-final victory on Bishop Noll.
West Lafayette, ranked No. 1 in Class 2A, were leading 2-1 at the time, but Cooke sent a free kick into the box for a header, then dropped a quick pass to Reimer for the winner of the match to get an unlikely comeback.
“We not only knew what our team had, but I knew what I had,” said Evan Cooke. “I knew I could finish chances and play with almost anyone. It gave me new confidence that I was going to go out and do my thing every game.”
Sam King covers sports for the Journal & Courier. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @samueltking.