Highline Pirates, State Champions in Football Highline Pirates have a rocky record, with fans enduring countless seasons without a single win. For many, it’s hard to imagine that the Pirates could ever make it to the State Champions, but don’t discount them yet — this just might be the year the Pirates redeem their reputation once and for all.
Meet Deontae Cooper, the man who came to Burien to take a program that few wanted and to coach kids most had bypassed. He turned down competitive offers with established programs to come to our city to love on our kids, giving them hope and a new start. Cooper grew up in Southern California. Playing Pop Warner football, his talent surfaced early. His older brother was his inspiration and helped him improve his skills and techniques as a running back. Cooper helped lead Citrus Hill to a 38-1 record over his final three seasons in high school. Finishing his high school career with 7,450 rushing yards and 107 touchdowns. Cooper rushed for 2,863 yards and 34 touchdowns on 316 carries as a senior and was named the offensive MVP of the Mountain Pass League in 2009.
Rated the nation’s No. 19 running back at the end of his senior year, Cooper came to Seattle to play for the Huskies. Injuries hampered his college career but did not impede his growing love for the PNW.
Coach Cooper began his coaching career at Bellevue High School, a storied program that knows how to develop talent and win championships. As his success spread, the offers started coming in. Cooper had the right pedigree, but I do not believe that is why so many schools wanted him. Many young talents have a pedigree, but few have what Coach Cooper has —character — Coach Cooper exudes character. Out of this character comes a gift for leadership that is well beyond his years. And if that is not enough, Coach Cooper truly loves his players, going the extra mile for them both on and off the field.
As Cooper toured the schools and cities from which he received offers, schools with better programs, more money, and more prestige, he came to Highline High School and Burien. “The moment I came here, I knew this was my new home and school. I loved it from the first. I could see a vision of what this school and this place could be. So I accepted the offer from Highline, bought a home in Burien, and made this my new city.”, said Coach Cooper.
Coach Cooper came in 2019. That year barely enough guys turned out to scrimmage. Still, they went 4-5, a successful season by Pirate football standards. With COVID lockdowns and ensuing fears, the 2020 fall season was canceled, and a modified spring season was put together.
Then came 2021. 48 players turned out. The word had spread —Highline had a successful coach with a winning philosophy who loved the kids. A new belief system was formed. Talent came to play for and learn from him — bringing fresh chemistry and new blood. Players understood they were part of a family and could count on one another. And they began to work harder and harder. The 2021 season ended 8-3, 5-0 in conference play, and the Highline Pirates went to the state playoffs for the first time in school history.
For the 2022 season, 91 kids signed up. Coach Cooper has 18 returning starters. When putting together, the team calendar Coach Cooper extended the schedule all the way to the State Championship game. “I have never done that before.” Coach Cooper said. “But I believe this is the year we can do it.”
As a reporter, who has watched countless practices and witnessed the team’s transformation, I can testify that Coach Cooper is not alone in this belief – the other coaches and players also believe they can make it to the State Champions.
At the end of every practice, Coach Cooper gathers the team and coaches to give a practice wrap-up talk. As he nears the end, every player and coach knows what final words will come from Coach Cooper’s lips: “Men, let your yes be yes, let your no be no. Go home and tell someone you love them.” Seems like great coaching for all of us — for all of Burien. Deontae Cooper, it is an honor to have you here in Burien as you develop these young men’s character in our city and beyond. This is the first in a series of articles on Coach Cooper, the assistant coaches the players.