Kragthorpe: Alabama-bound Bateman extends his Cottonwood football career

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After being hit from behind by a blitzing linebacker, Cottonwood quarterback Cooper Bateman watched helplessly as his pass fluttered into a strong wind Monday afternoon.

Somehow, the football traveled just far enough, slowly floating into the hands of the Colts' Sione Moli, who rumbled into the end zone.

Anyone who's followed Cottonwood's travails of the past five months could only glance skyward and wonder what took so long for the Colts to catch a break.

Bateman himself shook his head later, pondering the turn of events. "Everything we've gone through — everything," he said. "Something went our way today, so that was kind of weird."

So was the idea that the most celebrated recruit in Utah prep football history could have his senior season end short of the 16-team playoffs in Class 5A, following a sequence of two halves against two opponents. As it was, Cottonwood delivered its most complete performance of the season — in 24 minutes.

The Colts' 20-0 defeat of Brighton in the tiebreaking contest (Brighton followed with a 14-7 win over West Jordan) sent them into the tournament as Region 3's No. 3 seed, facing Bingham in the first round. Monday's format created the unusual scene of the losing team taking a knee in the final minute, just to preserve its energy for the next opponent.

Bateman completed 6 of 13 passes — factoring in some drops and throwaways under pressure — for 124 yards and two touchdowns, besides running for a 5-yard score as the Colts suddenly looked dominant.

"This is kind of what we expected," coach Greg Croshaw said. "It's sure nice to see it now."

Until Monday, nothing went quite the way anyone would have scripted Bateman's senior year. Soon after he committed to Alabama in mid-May, everything seemingly crumbled around him.

Cottonwood coach Josh Lyman and an assistant coach resigned in the wake of separate off-field allegations, and offensive line coach Michael Gallegos died in an auto accident. Then came the news that offensive coordinator Scott Cate would not be involved anymore, due to a Granite School District policy restricting boosters from coaching.

As Bateman said that day, "In this world, life's all about changes, and you have to battle through them."

Even so, he could not have known how difficult his senior season would become.

Croshaw tried to blend in smoothly as the Colts' fourth head coach in Bateman's four years, but all of the upheaval took a toll. So did injuries, weakening the support of the quarterback and making Croshaw fret that a disastrous season might change Alabama's mind.

But offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier came to town and watched Bateman and the Colts keep up with No. 1 Jordan in a 35-33 loss in early October, and the relationship remains intact. The irony is Bateman's being poised to sign with the defending national champions and current No. 1 team after enduring a 2-7 regular season that ended with last week's 48-12 loss to Alta.

Asked what this year has been like for him, Bateman paused, managing to chuckle. "Of course, the record kind of speaks for itself," he said. "As a team, we've all had our ups and downs, but we've pushed through that and took our spot in the playoffs."

Croshaw, a longtime coach, marveled about how Bateman has handled everything. "He's the greatest; everything about him's first class," Croshaw said.

The Colts now have drawn a Bingham team that beat them 34-14 in September. Judging by the look of things Monday, though, Cottonwood still has something to say about when Bateman's prep career ends.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.comTwitter: @tribkurt