Sports

Football: Wolves expect to Cook up trouble for opposing teams

It felt about as realistic as a video game.

The problem — or perhaps the blessing — was that no South Kitsap offensive lineman could contain Austin Levi Cook. When the 6-foot-2, 243-pound defensive end began producing arcade-like numbers of sacks and tackles-for-loss during practice, South’s coaches realized they needed to make a change.

Enter Adam Kanouse.

The 1988 South graduate, who played offensive tackle at Eastern Washington University, reclaimed his former position during practices to challenge Cook.

“It’s to the point where guys can’t pass block him,” Kanouse said. “He would just blow by guys and it wasn’t realistic. I have to pass block him to give him a little bit of a challenge.”

Despite his height, Kanouse said Cook does not possess large hands or feet. Even without those attributes, Cook said he runs the 40-yard dash in 4.9 seconds. More importantly, Kanouse said he has a quick first step and is eager to learn. Some high-school defensive ends only feature one or two moves in an effort to fool their opponent and reach the quarterback.

Cook has five.

The result was six sacks and 10 tackles-for-loss last year en route to first-team all-Narrows League honors. South allowed just 13.2 points per game during the regular season, down from 17.8 in 2008.

But breakout junior years do not guarantee successful senior seasons. Kanouse noticed a difference during the summer when the Wolves traveled to Cheney for football camp at Eastern Washington University. When it came time for pass-blocking drills, Kanouse said the top offensive linemen all lined up for an opportunity to challenge Cook.

“He’s going to have to understand that guys are aware of him now,” he said. “He’s going to be on scouting reports and they’re going to put their best guy on him now.”

Cook attributes most of his success from a year ago to Kanouse’s teaching. But he felt he needed to do more to continue to improve. He spent much of the last nine months in the weight room, where Cook placed particular emphasis on his legs in hopes of becoming even more explosive. He has improved his squat by about 50 pounds to an average of 360.

Kanouse noted that Cook also has gained weight while losing body fat.

“He’s stealth,” he said.

And college recruiters are beginning to notice. Cook does not hold a scholarship offer, but favors two schools. Cook, who maintains a 3.36 grade-point average, likes Air Force — his father, Gene, lieutenant commander at Naval Base Kitsap — while Eastern long has had a pipeline of talent through South.

Kanouse said Cook, who is a captain this season along with senior fullback Jens Johnson, is mature and understands where his abilities are when it comes to choosing a college. Kanouse noted that Cook might struggle to land a Pac-10 offer. For example, the University of Washington received a commitment from defensive end Taniela Tupou in April from Archbishop Murphy in Mill Creek. Tupou also is about 6-3, but runs a better 40 time than Cook despite outweighing him by 20 pounds.

But being an underdog is a role Cook relishes. After the Wolves finished with a 10-1 record, he has heard some doubts that they can repeat as Narrows League champions and return to the Class 4A state playoffs for a second straight year.

“We don’t mind being the underdog,” Cook said. “If everyone does their job just like last year, we’ll have no problem getting back to state.”

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