Two Havelock High football players and one from New Bern have been selected to play in the Shrine Bowl all-star football game Dec. 15 in Spartanburg, S.C.
Quarterback Pharoh Cooper and defensive back A.J. Coplon will represent the Rams on the 44-player North Carolina squad that will face off against a team of all-stars from South Carolina.
“It’s a big game for high school players, after their regular season,” said Coplon. “I’m going to showcase my cover skills and my speed.”
The players attended a Shrine Bowl combine in the offseason, and then were called back for tryouts. They had to go through speed and agility drills and strength tests.
Cooper, Havelock’s quarterback, committed to the University of South Carolina as a defensive back. At the Shrine Bowl, he said he would be in the secondary with his teammate, Coplon, who has an offer from East Carolina.
Cooper said he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds, while the speedy Coplon was clocked at 4.34 seconds.
“It’s going to be a great experience,” Cooper said. “There are going to be a lot of college Division I athletes in that game, so it’s going to prepare me for the best.”
Cooper has passed for 1,661 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, while running for 795 yards and 12 scores. Coplon, a wide receiver/defensive back, has 213 receiving yards, two interceptions and two punt returns for a touchdown.
“I’m excited for (the Shrine Bowl),” Coplon said. “I’m ready to play. I’m looking forward to playing against better competition.”
The Shrine Bowl is more than just a football game. The players will have mixers, listen to guest speakers and visit the Shriner’s Children’s Hospital.
“It’s going to be great giving back to the community and getting to play some football,” Cooper said. “It’s going to be a fun experience and I am looking forward to it.”
North Carolina won last year’s meeting 26-19.
“I’m going to go in there like it’s any other game, playing with a bunch of great athletes,” Cooper said. “It’s going to be better competition, so it’s going to make me step my game up.”
Other notable Havelock players to participate in the Shrine Bowl include Bruce Carter, now with the Dallas Cowboys, and Corey Robinson, currently starting at the University of South Carolina.
From New Bern, offensive lineman Christian Matau has been selected to the North Carolina squad. The 6-foot-3, 305-pound left tackle has committed to play at East Carolina.
“I feel like I am right up there with them,” Matau said of competing against the best in the state. “I might not have as many offers as them, but I feel like I can hang with them. I work just as hard as anybody else.”