Recording stats a labor of love for Woodland statistician
Editor’s note: This article appears in the special Thanksgiving football section published by the Citizen’s News the week of Nov. 29, 2013.
During the 12-year history of the Woodland varsity football program, records have been written and rewritten again. Mike Cook has seen it all — and recorded it for anyone who didn’t.
Cook, the Hawks’ official statistician, records every tackle, touchdown, catch and rushing attempt — just about anything that happens during a play. He has done it since day one of the program.
Cook has seen state title runs, memorable comebacks and a slew of talented players that left their marks in the annals of Hawks history. By the stroke of his pen, he has captured it all.
His passion for numbers started at a young age, keeping stats for Babe Ruth baseball games in his native Naugatuck. From there, he joined the Naugy track team and former coach Chris Herb in the mid-1990s.
“Coach asked me to come up with a record book,” Cook recalls.
For Cook, the rest is history — one that is constantly being written.
Several years later, Cook found out that Woodland coach Chris Anderson was looking for a scorekeeper for the upstart Hawks. He joined the staff as a volunteer at the suggestion of assistant coach Greg Todd and started documenting the team’s performance since its birth.
“It was a brand new program, so keeping records was easy,” Cook says.
Before there was a press box, Cook would find himself on the top of a shed in the far end zone to watch the action. He enjoyed every minute of it, and has kept up the enthusiasm a dozen years into the program’s history.
“It’s a labor of love,” Woodland coach Tim Shea says. “He’s always here, he’s reliable and we look forward to getting his numbers. He takes a lot of pride in it.”
Cook sticks with his pen-and-paper method of scorekeeping to this day. After the game, Cook reports the stats to MaxPreps, the state’s main stat-keeping website.
Today’s technology makes life a little easier for scorekeepers, thanks to the potential for video review of games for more accurate stats.
“We have the technology now to go over the game film and go over anything I may have missed or if I have questions,” Cook says.
Records are kept on Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, which include the biggest names to ever don the Black and Gold — Jared Katchmar, Pat Krakowski, Shane Kingsley, Jeff Jones, Jack DeBiase and the most recent record-holders, Anthony Scirpo and Tanner Kingsley.
Still, the earliest days of Woodland football provided some of the fondest memories.
Cook recalls the Woodland-Naugatuck game in 2003 on Halloween when the scoreboard malfunctioned.
“It was a great comeback in the final 2 minutes and there was no clock,” Cook remembers. “We had watched the final play and we didn’t know it.”
Jared Katchmar found Pat Krakowski in the end zone to give the Hawks the 40-37 win over the ‘Hounds in the teams’ first-ever meeting.
“It was one of the most amazing games I’ve ever seen,” Cook says.
During the next two years, the Hawks won a pair of Naugatuck Valley League and state titles. The records came early and often.
“It took a couple of years for us to fine-tune what we wanted,” Cook says.
The records are still racking up today. Most recently, Cook has seen Tanner Kingsley eclipse the school’s major passing records. Entering the 2013 NVL championship game, Kingsley had completed 533 of 795 passes for 7,488 yards and 107 touchdowns. Kingsley has passed Katchmar in all four categories and has a chance to break the state’s all-time passing touchdowns record, which currently stands at 112.
Every one of those gaudy numbers has been tracked by Cook. He rarely misses a game, but when he does he carefully reviews the video to make sure his job is done. But missing his presence sends the Woodland staff into chaos when it comes time to report the game to local media.
“We found out how valuable he was a few weeks ago (against Sacred Heart) when he wasn’t here,” Shea says. “I was lost. He does a very good job at something a lot of us take for granted sometimes. I’m glad we’ve got him.”
Cook says he would like to one day work for a college or professional team. But if that doesn’t happen, he’s quite happy working with the Hawks.
“If this is all I can do, I’ll do it,” Cook says. “It’s enjoyable.”