Located in Maywood, Illinois, Proviso East had an outstanding record playing in the rugged West Suburban Conference last fall. Head coach Aaron Peppers wanted even more.
"We finished the regular season 7-2, and then we finished the playoffs 8-3. I wasn't satisfied, but some people didn't even think that was realistic. I spoke to a guy who's been following our football program since he's been alive, and he told me he expected a 2-7 season. So that made me feel good."
Judging from the talent coming back, the Pirates should be even better in 2009.
"On paper they're good. It depends on execution. You can't live off what you do on paper."
Corey Cooper has been a headliner at the school for the past couple years. Peppers can't say enough about his star.
"I worked out with him Thursday," Coach Pepper relates. "He's the kind of kid that always likes challenges. And I'm a little different than the ones who coached me when I was growing up. They were a little overweight, so when they were telling me to get in shape, it kind of rubbed you the wrong way. So I run 8 miles and lift weights. I can bench over 400 pounds. So I had him working out with me on Thursday, along with (teammate) Antoine Lewis.
"He's a guy who pushes himself. We had a whole hour of core. He was doing abdominal workouts. I looked at him after an hour, and he was wearing down. But he said he wanted to keep on, so we did more workouts for 2 and 1/2 hours."
Corey plays safety and wide receiver and is simply a natural athlete.
"He's an exceptional kid. He's 6'-2", 205. He bench presses 300 pounds, and he's got speed. And he's real bright. A lot of people don't know that. When he talks to reporters, they look at me like, 'why is this guy so shy?' That's just the way he is. But he'll definitely show you out on the field."
Peppers sees a progression in Cooper that he believes will reach its peak for his senior season.
"His sophomore year on the varsity, he had a great defensive year and had an ok offensive year. This year, he had a real outstanding defensive year, and he had an incredible offensive year. I'm looking forward to his senior year for his going out party."
While coach Peppers realizes Corey could bulk up and play linebacker, he sees him as a dominant safety.
"He's going to be a safety in college. You look at guys throughout history like Ronnie Lott, (Steve) Atwater, they were bulky. He'll be fine as long as he keeps his speed and flexibility."
Corey Cooper has continued to receive scholarship offers from numerous schools all over the country, and he has made some unofficial visits despite committing early last year to Illinois. Should Illinois be concerned about losing him?
"I think he's still going to Illinois. He likes the attention, and he has the other offers that are tremendous. But the day Illinois offered, the coaching staff, the Illini Nation, the community are a perfect fit, like home. And his uncle lives down there, so that doesn't hurt anything."
Corey has plenty of talent to keep him company at Proviso East. At least three other upcoming seniors are getting looks from major colleges, including the young man who throws him the ball on offense.
"We have a quarterback named William Crowder who's being recruited by Illinois and Purdue and has an offer from Kansas State. He is 6'-3", 180 pounds, a 3.0 student, and runs a 4.5 40. He's a good kid and has a rifle arm. Coach Locks (Mike Locksley) was inquiring about him before he went to New Mexico. And Coach (Reggie) Mitchell and Coach (Dan) Disch all know about him.
"Antoine Lewis is a kid that is on Minnesota's radar. I think they're gonna pull the trigger on him. He's fast. He was at an underclassman combine in Indiana and ran a 4.3 40. They invited him to Texas, and he ran a 4.3 in Texas. He had 10 touchdowns this year, one on a kickoff return and the others as a receiver. He's being recruited by Minnesota as a corner and Northwestern as a receiver.
"We have a linebacker named Arian Wade. He's an outstanding speed guy. He'll also be a senior this year."
There's more talent in the pipeline.
"Jamin Sullivan plays center for me. He was a freshman, and we moved him up to play for us in the playoffs and started the next two games. He's real strong. He'll be a three year starter on the varsity."