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Special North-South moments

Chip Ellis
Martinsburg quarterback Cookie Clinton (left) shares a laugh with state coaching great Bill Hanlin at North-South media day.
Chip Ellis
Caleb Craddock (left) and Zach Cooper of Hurricane joke around at the North-South media day event.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- There are many numbers swirling around this week's North-South Football Classic.The South, for instance, holds a 37-19-3 all-time edge in the series. The team, dubbed the Cardinals, has a three-game winning streak.But perhaps the most sparkling number surrounding this Saturday's game is this one:Eighty-three.That will be the age of North Bears assistant coach Bill Hanlin next month."This should be a special moment for the North, but the South as well," said North and St. Marys High head coach Jodi Mote. "[Hanlin] is a legend in football in West Virginia."Indeed, he is.Numbers? Did someone mention numbers?Try these on:1948 - The year Hanlin was graduated from Sistersville High.1963 - The year he coached St. Marys High to an undefeated state championship season.0 - The points allowed that season by the Blue Devils. 10-3 - The margin Hanlin's 1973 Glenville State team fell short of winning an NAIA national title, falling to Northwestern.1985-88 - The years Hanlin served as the SSAC's executive director."I've been around a little bit," Hanlin said on Tuesday with a wry smile.
There's no doubt about that. In addition to his above duties, he's been a speaker. He started a helmet company with Bob Zide. He's been to a pair of Rose Bowls and saw Roger Staubach play in the 1965 East-West Shrine game.Now, he's hanging with Mote, Martinsburg quarterback Cookie Clinton and the Bears."About five years ago, Coach Mote came to me and asked if I'd be interested [helping with the St. Marys team]," Hanlin said. "I'd worked a summer youth camp for him and worked with some quarterbacks. He said the word 'football,' so I accepted."Thankfully, he also accepted the slot in the North-South game. It's a treat for the fans. It's a treat for the players. And it's a treat for Hanlin.
"It's just wonderful," Hanlin said. "I've been really fortunate health-wise. I had a little problem last year, but I guess I'm too old and too ornery to let it get me down. So I got over it ... survived it all and got right back into it."
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  • Hanlin got back into football. The Coopers of Hurricane, meanwhile, haven't missed a beat.First it was Kyle Cooper who made the North-South roster. Then it was brother Cameron. Now, Zach is taking his turn as a projected starting cornerback for the South."With my older brothers playing in the game, it makes you look forward to playing in it," Zach Cooper said. "It's finally here."Kyle is now 22 and playing linebacker for Robert Morris University. Cameron, 20, is playing wide receiver for Bethany College. Zach is headed to Robert Morris to join his older brother."The first time I watched Kyle play, I was excited that someone in my family was in an all-star game," Zach said on Tuesday. "Then watching Cam play, it made it a family tradition. I'm glad to be carrying it on."Hank Williams Jr. would be proud. And get this: There are three more Coopers brothers - Matthew, who will be a junior; Lucas, who will be a freshman; and Jake, who will be in the seventh grade - on the way."I'd like to say I'm the best," Zach said. "My goal was to be better than my older brothers. I'm sure my younger brothers will try to be better than me. I think it comes from our parents putting it in our heads that we were going to be athletes - and then us falling in love with it."The sport. The all-star game."It's different because these [South teammates] are the guys you've been scheming against for the last three years," Zach said. "Now they're on your team and you have to learn to work with them. But these guys are a lot of fun. I'm just sad it's only going to be one game."Yep. After all, they feel just like brothers.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, or follow him at      
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