OXFORD — Oxford’s Jake Cook can do more than throw a fast ball. He is showing that as a football wide receiver, he’s pretty good at catching one, too.
Cook serves as the Oxford baseball team’s ace pitcher, but the senior also is making a name for himself as a football receiver.
Last week, in Oxford’s season opener, Southside double covered ace Yellow Jackets receiver Tre Gamble, who is better known as “Big Man.” That left Cook as an easy target for quarterback Ty Webber. Cook caught seven passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns in the 42-21 win.
“At practice, he does that every day,” Webber said. “We know he’s capable of catching it like that and getting that many yards. Since they double-teamed Big Man all night and had a safety sitting on top of him, we were able to throw it to (Cook) a lot and show that he can catch the ball.”
Cook’s surge for Oxford’s offense has created a problem for opponents.
Is it better to cover Gamble and let the Yellow Jackets’ other skilled players have huge nights, or is it better to take a chance on covering the best wide receiver in Alabama, according to Herring, one on one and hope for the best? That will be the question for Gadsden City, which will host Oxford on Friday night.
“Gadsden City probably isn’t too worried, because they all have big guys that can run,” Herring said. “I think it can be difficult for a lot of teams, but sitting here and looking at them on film, they’ve got a good team. They went to Auburn (last week) and won, so we know they’re pretty good.
“I think what’s tough against us is you can’t double-cover Big Man because there are too many other options out there.”
A lot of the production also comes to the credit of Webber, who made all-Calhoun County last year with 1,893 passing yards and 21 touchdowns. Against Southside, he threw for more than 300 yards.
“He looks a lot better,” Herring said. “He looks better running the ball, he threw the ball well. I think, from head to toe, he’s better in many aspects. Of course, that’s what you expect out of a third-year starter and senior.”
Even with his football success, Cook hasn’t forgotten about baseball, just as he doesn’t forget about football during baseball season.
After football practice, he finds time to long toss with a teammate until he starts his throwing program in December. During baseball season, Cook still conditions and runs routes in preparation for football.
“There isn’t much you can do without pads with hitting,” he said, “but we work on running crisp routes and getting our timing down.”
Practicing the offseason sport during the other’s season hasn’t affected Cook in the slightest. Along with his strong performance this past week in football, he was also an all-Calhoun County baseball player in the spring.
Last year, he recorded a 6-2 record and boasted a 1.50 ERA over 51 innings.
“I love both sports so much that it’s hard to pick one over the other,” Cook said. “I put so much time and effort into both of them, and I could see myself playing at the next level at either one of them.
“A lot of these (college) coaches see what I’m doing, and they understand how much I love the sports so it doesn’t really bother them. Plus, they see what I do (with baseball) during the summer and I know how dedicated I am.”
On Friday night, Cook will be dedicated to winning a football game. Whether he gets the chance to duplicate his big numbers from a week ago remains to be seen.
Herring said Oxford will have the same game plan as last week but will make moves depending on how Gadsden City is playing defensively. Even with all the excitement from the season-opening win, Cook and the offense have moved on and are focused on opening the season with two wins for the first time since 2011.
“We’re preparing for Gadsden City,” Cook said. “We celebrated our victory the day after and got back to work Sunday for Gadsden City.”