SPRINGDALE — When Bryton Cook is around the football good things typically happen.
Trailing 21-6 in the second half at Fayetteville in Week 8, Springdale Har-Ber needed a spark. Penetration from the Wildcats’ defensive line caused a Darius Bowers fumble and, in the right place at the right time, Cook, from his safety position, scooped up the loose ball and returned it 15 yards for a touchdown.
SCHOOL Springdale Har-Ber CLASS Senior
POSITION Wide receiver/defensive back
NOTABLE Scored on five of his first six touches this season on offense (four receiving, one rushing). Is second on the team with 24 catches for 397 yards and four touchdowns. … Named 2015 defensive Newcomer of the Year by 7A-West coaches and is a two-time all-conference performer. … His brother, Bryndell, attends Springdale High.
It gave Har-Ber a confidence boost early in the third quarter in a game it would ultimately fall short in, but it also presented coach Chris Wood with something he’d never had in his 12 years at the school — a player with a receiving, rushing and defensive touchdown.
“That’s the first one I’ve had,” he said. “And that goes back, again, to him being a special, special player.”
Throughout his Har-Ber career, Cook (5-foot-10, 180 pounds) has done everything he’s been asked. As a sophomore, he started from Day 1 at cornerback for the state runner-up Wildcats and earned defensive Newcomer of the Year by 7A-West coaches. Last season, Cook lined up at safety and again was named all-conference despite battling a deep thigh bruise in the team’s final eight games.
In a word, Wood describes Cook’s game as “electric,” and wanted to showcase those talents on the offensive side of the ball as well. And Cook went right to work to begin his senior season, scoring five times in Har-Ber’s first two games at Fort Smith South-side and Jefferson City, Mo. In the two wins, Cook scored four times on four receptions, and found the end zone once on the ground on just his second carry.
“It makes me feel good,” said Cook, whose 24 catches for 397 yards are good for second on the team. “It makes me feel like I’ve actually got something to contribute to this team and that I’m a player in this state that can do something big.”
Prior to this fall, Cook hadn’t caught a pass in his Har-Ber career. But when the opportunity presented itself he made it count and continues to do so.
“He’s electric in any role we put him in,” Wood said. “He’s been that way since the first day he walked in our fieldhouse. Any role we’ve put him in he’s electrifying because he makes plays and plays at a different speed than anyone else. He’s always had that kind of skill and he makes those type of plays for your program and your team.”
The senior’s offensive role increased this fall, but his play defensively has been a constant since coming out of Southwest Junior High, where he showcased his big-play ability not only in the secondary but at quarterback. He is part of a dynamic class that includes Blaze Brothers and Tevin Eckwood, who will all be playing their final regular season home game at Wildcat Stadium Friday night against Van Buren (0-8, 0-5 7A-West).
Cook’s senior class has been a vital part of the history of Har-Ber football in winning back-to-back conference championships as sophomores and juniors. Following a trying three-week stretch of the schedule, a third straight league crown is now out of the question, but Cook understands there is still something to play for — the school’s second state championship.
“Everybody’s just got to do their job, keep grinding, keep going and ignore the adversity. It’s been kind of tough,” Cook said of Har-Ber’s three-game skid. “There’s some things we could have done better on and fine-tuned.
“And (Senior Night) is a little surreal,” he added. “It actually came pretty fast, faster than I thought. I also think about it like its an exciting opportunity that’s a mends to my high school career.”
Wood also commends Cook for the way he has handled a curiously limited number of college looks. From sophomore year to now, Cook has displayed humility and a team-first attitude, Wood said, in a time when players can become consumed by individual attention, or a lack thereof.
“I think he’s one of those kids when you talk about Har-Ber guys, Bryton is as good as we’ve got,” Wood said. “He’s a college guy.
“He was special then, special now and always has been.”
Cook, who tweaked his knee in the loss at Fayetteville, is a game time decision against the Pointers, Wood said.
Print Headline: Two-way talent Cook electric for Har-Ber