Prep football: Bateman, Lotulelei make star-studded pair
When the Cottonwood offense lines up, defenses know where Cooper Bateman wants to throw.
His first choice tends to be Inoke Lotulelei, the 5-foot-7 receiver whose hands rarely falter.
Try as they might to contain him, it's usually pretty tough. That's why Bateman, the Alabama-committed quarterback, sits back waiting for Lotulelei to get open.
"If you just look at him, you wouldn't think much of him because he doesn't look like a wide receiver," Bateman said. "Once you watch him play, the things he does, it's amazing that he has kind of flown under the radar."
Lotulelei quietly has developed a reputation as perhaps the surest-handed receiver in the state. His senior campaign before heading to BYU next year hasn't quite been what the team hoped for, only winning two of its first eight games this season.
The Colts haven't kept official statistics for their offense this season, so Lotulelei's work this season may not quite be appreciated to the extent it should.
But those who watch him play every week or play with him every week know his contributions are invaluable.
"He's done about everything you could ask to help make us better,"Cottonwood coach Greg Croshaw said. "It was certainly tough in the first half for us. Inoke and Cooper those guys have to have big games for us to win."
The players have forged an intuitive relationship since starting together at Cottonwood during their freshman year. As sophomores, they both made varsity, and since then, the Colts have thrived when the passing game thrives.
In the 2010 and 2011 season, Bateman and Lotulelei connected on 27 touchdowns, helping Cottonwood become an offensive machine. Even this year, though Lotulelei only has caught two scores, he still has made double-digit receptions in most of his games.
They accomplish this with an unspoken communication that defenders can't seem to figure out.
A lot of the time, Lotulelei finds ways to improvise, seeking soft spots in the defense.
"He's not a kid who runs a 10-yard route because it's on the play card," Bateman said. "He'll run a 5-yard route or a 12-yard route to adjust to the coverage. And yeah, he doesn't look that tall, but I think I've overthrown him a million times, and he always seems to come down with it."
Next year, the two will go their separate ways Bateman is headed to Alabama in January, while Lotulelei will look to find success at BYU. The two undeniably have been great contributors to each other's careers, but they'll have to figure out how to play without each other.
Croshaw sees fortune ahead.
"I'm sure it goes hand-in-hand, but do I see them doing well without each other? Of course," Croshaw said. "They'll find comfort zones with their new teams, just like they did at Cottonwood."
That doesn't mean the two won't remember their time together on the field as special.
"It's really been the best relationship," Bateman said. "Over the course of four years, he's definitely made me look good."
Cottonwood duo has been a strength in tough year
In the 2010 and 2011 seasons, Cooper Bateman and Inoke Lotulelei had 27 touchdown passes.
Lotulelei is tied for seventh all-time in the state for touchdown receptions.
Bateman is committed to Alabama, and Lotulelei will go to BYU.