STERLING — The Sterling football coaches watch the videos but sometimes just have to pretend they didn't see what they really saw.

They have seen senior quarterback Cooper Willman get the play call for a pass, seen the play run with the intended receiver open and seen Willman forego the pass and take off for a run — usually picking up a first down or touchdown.

For the coaching staff, it is all part of having a quarterback who can pretty much do it all — and do it well.

Willman has run for a team-high 313 yards and four touchdowns, and thrown for another 368 yards and two scores, to lead the state-ranked Golden Warriors into tonight's Western Big 6 Conference showdown between unbeatens at Geneseo.

"We see him having an open look and pulling the ball down and running," Sterling coach Jon Schlemmer said. "We live with him being a playmaker and most times he gets the play made anyway. He usually makes the right reads and he sees something we don't see, we are just fine with that."

Said Willman, "The coaches do get on me a little bit, but I am definitely a run-first guy. They always preach to me that I have to be able to make that big throw on a third and long play and I am confident in that."

Schlemmer is equally confident. He has seen Willman in practice make the deep throw and he believes if the Warriors were in a situation where they needed to throw 25 to 30 passes, Willman would handle that with ease.

"Cooper can make all the plays," Schlemmer said. "Basically, we are a screen-oriented passing team and we want to run the ball. At the same time, Cooper has shown he can win a game with his arm. He has dynamic legs and is just a special football player."

Willman had to share the job as a junior with senior Camden Bailey. Now, he is running the show by himself and has completed 74 percent (23 of 31) of his passes and has yet to throw an interception.

"I did what coach needed me to do last year and I played defense and split the quarterback spot," Willman said. "I was excited to have the job for myself this year and it's going well so far."

Schlemmer noted that Willman would likely be one of the team's best defensive players if he was playing that side of the ball this season. The coach also added that could happen later in the season.

For now, both are pleased with what has happened so far this season.

Now comes the fun part. After battling their long-time NCIC/NIB-12 rivals tonight, the Golden Warriors play Quincy, Rock Island and Moline the following three weeks in their first tour around the Big 6.

Willman cannot wait.

"(Tonight) is going to be fun because we came into the conference together with Geneseo and we're both 1-0 in the Big 6," Willman said. "It's weird the way we started the league playing Alleman and Geneseo, the teams we always play.

"When I think about the Big 6, I think of Moline and how big that school is. We think this is our time to show what we have. Like coach tells us, we play with a swagger, but we stay humble and work together as a team. We're not scared of anyone."

As good as Willman is as a quarterback, he is also a standout in baseball as a shortstop and pitcher. He also starts for the basketball team — which he calls more his fun sport.

"For sure, football and baseball are my top sports," he said. "I'm getting college looks in both. I love playing three sports and would never think of not playing all of them. In basketball, it is more of a fun thing where I'm not the star. I just play defense, run the court and love to shoot."

Sounds like another sport where he kind of does it all.

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Jeff Wendland is the lead prep sports writer for the Dispatch-Argus-QCOnline. He can be reached by email at jwendland@qconline.com or on Twitter @jaydub_DA


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