Cooley had been to all three previous all-star games. He knew the North had never lost and wanted no part of being on the first North team to lose.
"We had fun, but we got serious for this game," Cooley said. "I guess you could say the North is building tradition. We have a lot of guys from Boyle County and Danville that are used to winning. We win in the season and postseason, and we don't want to lose an all-star game.
"That might build up a grudge with some other teams, but nobody can beat us in the season or the all-star game. I kind of like that."
Maybe that's why the game was easily the most intense of the four all-star games. Pushing, shoving, taunting and even late hits were the rule instead of the exception from start to finish.
He exchanged a few "friendly words"
Cooley exchanged a few "friendly words" with the South's Miles Mullins, a Pulaski Southwestern graduate.
"It was no big deal. He said after the game he just had to get some anger out because they couldn't beat us," Cooley said.
Winning was no surprise to Cooley. The Rebels went 58-2 during his four years and won four straight state titles. Yet until a few weeks ago, he was ready to pursue another sport - bowling - in college.
He planned to attend Morehead State and bowl there. There's no way anyone playing in Thursday's game could have touched Cooley on the lanes - even though he's still only the second-best bowler in his house because his mother, Terri Cooley, is one of the area's best bowlers.
Cooley gave up playing baseball this spring both for personal reasons and to concentrate on his bowling. He says he still may eventually bowl in college, but today his plans have him going to Lexington Community College.
"I just wanted to stay around home. I like it here," Cooley said.
Then the all-star football practices started. That got him thinking football, and Thursday's game re-energized his enthusiasm for playing.
"I know now I am not going to be out of sports for long. It might be bowling, football, or even baseball. But I'm not ready to hang up my gear, and I just may think about playing college football again," Cooley said. "I just didn't realize how much I missed playing until this game came along."
Organizers considering new format for next year
Cooley could be the game's biggest booster. Organizers may consider a new format that would have a Mid-State team play a game against another association's all-star team. The game could be rotated between sites.
However, that might reduce the number of players participating in the game as well as making it difficult for local fans to see the game in the years it would be played in another part of the state.
"Why wouldn't you want to keep this game this way? Who wouldn't want to play in this game? If you like playing football, this is great," Cooley said. "I've been here every year. I've watched former teammates and opponents play.
"It was a pleasure and honor for me to play in this game. It's a different atmosphere. You meet new people. It's just unique."
"Well, practices were a little different," Cooley said.
By different, Cooley meant practices were a lot shorter and less intense than those he had at Boyle under Chuck Smith.
"I actually found out you could take your helmet off in practice," Cooley laughed and said. "Or you could take a break when you were tired. Coach Smith didn't allow any of that."
More importantly, he also found out just how much he likes playing football and while this may still turn out to be his last game, as of today he's at least reconsidering his future because of the fun he had during all-star week.