A.J. Coplon is by nature a mild-mannered, quiet young man. Few are louder on the football field.
Coplon was a defensive sparkplug in the Rams’ 55-21 state championship victory over Concord Saturday at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem.
Coplon scored a touchdown off a 61-yard fumble return and stripped and recovered another fumble.
"On the return, I just knew I had to make a play and saw the football and picked it up and ran," Coplon said.
That play came on Concord’s first possession of the second half. Coplon’s touchdown gave the Rams a 28-21 lead, a lead the Rams would never lose.
On the next Spiders’ drive, Coplon reached into the arms of running back Rocky Reid and stripped the ball onto the ground before promptly pouncing on it for the recovery.
"We do a scope and score drill every week in practice. We practice stripping the ball," Havelock coach Jim Bob Bryant said. "People always look at fumbles and say, ‘well if they hadn’t fumbled.’ Well, if we don’t teach stripping the ball, then we don’t get fumbles. If we don’t teach scope and score, than we don’t get that."
Coplon entered the game leading Havelock with seven interceptions. He also had five punt returns for touchdowns this year, and he had two punt returns for 24 yards against Concord.
Coplon said coming out stronger on defense in the second half was a huge point of attention in the locker room at halftime.
"We just talked about getting back to playing Ramball, and that’s what we did in the second half," Coplon said.
Concord managed just 112 total yards in the second half, compared to 228 in the first, with Coplon’s two fumble recoveries proving to be huge keys in the game.
"I saw he (Reid) was holding and carrying the ball really loose and I knew I could strip it," Coplon said. "Once I reached in and fought to pull it out, I saw it on the ground and I knew I could get it for us."
Coplon, a senior, has committed to play college football at East Carolina and is a 2012 Shrine Bowl invitee.