Eastside starting quarterback Noah Cook was thrown his fair share of curveballs throughout his senior season, but luckily for the senior, who is also a standout baseball player, he had little to no issue barreling them up.
Cook’s first curveball came in Week 2 when his favorite offensive target and good friend Colby Shivers went down with a season-ending injury. Cook was also without the team’s Top 3 running backs from one season ago.
Leading rusher Taylor Carter graduated, rising junior Quincy Cullins transferred and rising junior Terrence Reid saw action in only one game due to injury. All of that, however, didn’t stop Cook from throwing for 1,849 yards and tossing 17 touchdowns to only three interceptions.
Cook helped lead Eastside to the first round of the Class AAAA playoffs, one year removed from helping lead the Eagles to a state quarterfinals appearance.
Despite accumulating more total yards one season ago and tossing 25 touchdowns, Cook said it was easy to call his senior season much more rewarding given what his team was put through.
“I was more proud of how everybody as a team stepped up together,” Cook said. “We did lose a lot of guys that played really important roles. Even with injuries this year, people stepped up and made big plays. I enjoyed watching the team come together and seeing how everything worked out.”
After preparing all offseason to have Shivers as his security blanket on offense, changes to the offense had to be made heading into Week 3 of the regular season. Cook pointed to junior receiver Dayton Green as being someone who stepped up the plate immediately in the absence of Shivers.
“The offense changed a good bit,” Cook said. “Colby was so versatile. You could put him anywhere and he could block better than just about anybody on the team. We definitely had to do some moving around and figure out what we could do. We had to put some guys in different personnel.”
Not only was Cook losing one of Eastside’s top offensive players, not just for his pass catching ability, but for his ability to throw key blocks from his tight end position, the senior was also losing one of his best friends on the team.
“That hurt, more than just because he was such a big part of our team, but because I’ve played with him my whole life,” Cook said. “He doesn’t get hurt. If he stays down, there’s something wrong. When I saw him get carried off, I knew we had the rest of football and baseball together and the chance of not being able to play with him again.”
Shivers’ abrupt exit from the starting lineup in their Week 2 loss to Newton also marked the end of the season for Reid, who was expected to be one of Eastside’s top running backs this season after rushing for 512 yards as a sophomore.
Reid’s season ended with the junior only seeing action in game and rushing for 50 yards on 14 carries.
Even the loss of Reid, however, didn’t stunt Cook’s season. Cook and the offense quickly turned their attention to a cast of younger running backs eager to prove their worth.
“It gave those younger guys an opportunity to step up,” Cook said of the running backs. “You had Sincere (Johnson) and Dallas (Johnson). Then you had some even younger guys like Kenai (Grier) and Ramon (Hernandez). It was fun to see them learn the offense, get those reps and watch them progress over the year.”
After starting off the season 0-2, Eastside’s worst start since 2005, the Eagles rattled off wins in seven of their final eight games. Cook helped lead the Eagles back to the Class AAAA state playoffs with a No. 2 seed out of Region 4 and ended his regular season with 1,648 yards passing and 15 touchdowns.
In a Week 10 victory at McDonough, Cook passed for a school record 367 yards and did so by completing 20 of 25 of his passes. Cook also threw four touchdown passes in the game, matching a career-high set his junior season.
Heading into that game, Cook didn’t even expect to throw the ball that much.
“Watching film that week, we knew that we were going to be able to run it,” Cook said. “It just worked out that way. I didn’t even know that I broke the record until we were watching film on Sunday. That was really cool and it was a fun game.”
Cook very nearly led the Eagles to a playoff win over Mary Persons in the first round. Cook threw for 201 yards and two touchdowns in the game, but eventually lost in heartbreaking fashion, 28-21, ending his season with 1,849 yards and 17 TDs.
Luckily for Cook, his playing days as a quarterback might not be over. After entering the season with zero offers, Cook was offered by Union College and Fort Valley State on Dec. 13 and was recently offered by a trio of schools last week.
Cook picked up offers from Culver Stockton, Lincoln University and Lawrence Tech University, increasing his list to five as it currently stands.
Gearing up for his final season of baseball at Eastside, Cook said he hasn’t decided on what he wants to do after high school. He does expect, however, to continue his career as an athlete in some regard.
“I want to make sure that I make the decision that will be best fit me,” Cook said. “Whether that’s football or baseball, I’m not sure. I’ve talked to a good bit of schools that would like to give me the opportunity to play both. That could be an option. I think what it’s going to come down to is a whole lot of prayer and hoping that one day I wake up and that’s what I want to do.”
Cook said it still hasn’t quite sunk in that his career at Eastside is over. Having put together one of the best careers as a quarterback in Eastside history, one that has seen him throw for 4,111 yards and 46 touchdowns in 31 career games, the senior said he is going to miss it a lot.
“I’m still supposed to be getting ready for the spring, that’s what it feels like,” Cook said. “I remember freshman year and just working to try and get better. Sophomore year, going through the struggles that I had with the collarbone deal. Then junior year, to come out and have a really good season this year, it’s crazy to think that it went by that fast. It was a really fun time.”