THOMASVILLE -- If you walked by Thomas County Central's Moses Cochran in the halls at school, chances are you wouldn't look twice. At 5-feet-7 (maybe), 165 pounds (or so), Cochran doesn't look like the kind of guy who'd be knocking linebackers and defensive backs on their fantail.

But hand him the ball.

It's hard to believe that Central has ever had a tougher runner to bring down than the hard-charging No. 28, who was named this week as The Times-Enterprise 2003 Offensive Player of the Year.

"Moses is one tough runner," Yellow Jackets head football coach Ed Pilcher said, "especially when you consider his size. He's done a great job for us, especially with all that's happened this year."

What happened was, with Central sailing along in the No. 1 spot in Class AAAA through the first two months of the season, All-State quarterback Erik Walden went down hard in the early part of a game with Bainbridge on Oct. 31 and had to leave.

The keys to the Toffense were turned over to Moses Cochran. He had to step in at QB.

And by the way, the night before, Cochran found out that his house had burned down.

"I was coming back from a party with Erik (Walden)," Cochran said.

"I stopped at my girlfriend's house and my sister came over, all crying and everything...It was awful.."

So here he is, the weight of the world on his diminutive shoulders anyway, and now this. Oh, uh, Moses? Can you be our quarterback?

"I was kind of nervous," Cochran said.

"I mean, you're stepping in for the best quarterback in the state. But Coach (Pilcher) kept telling me I could do it and I did OK."

With Walden on the mend, Cochran had to run the offense for key region games with Cairo and Ware County.

"Against Cairo, it got a lot tougher," Cochran said. "It was harder to make the reads, do all that a quarterback's got t0 do. But we got through it."

Against Ware County, though, Cochran had a tough night. Central turned the ball over on its first four possessions, two were Cochran fumbles. One was a Cochran interception.

"I was too hyped up," Cochran said. "Just way too hyped up. Erik kept talking to me on the sidelines and calmed me down."

As the game went on, Cochran -- and Central -- got better. Walden made a few cameo appearances and fired some touchdown passes. And Cochran got the ground game going again.

The Jackets, trailing 24-7, completed an amazing comeback and actually twice held the lead in the game's final three minutes.

But Ware prevailed, 36-34. And it was on to the playoffs.

"We knew it was going to be tough," Cochran said. "After last year, going to the championship game, we knew everybody was going to be aiming for us. And they were."

But Cochran never took a backward step.

He kept making the big run, taking the big hit, keeping those legs driving. And Central made it all the way back to the Georgia Dome and a rematch with Marist, a team Central had beaten the year before in OT on a Cochran run.

"We knew Marist would be tough," Cochran said. "Any time you play them, you can expect a really close game. And it was. We just didn't play our best game."

But Cochran closed out a remarkable career, scoring his 40th touchdown as a Yellow Jacket in the 35-21 loss.

Cochran finished with 1,317 yards rushing on 223 carries and 17 touchdowns as a senior. His career totals were 426 carries for 2,743 yards and 40 touchdowns.

The Cochran family is expected to move into a new house in January. He's aiming on heading to college where he plans a career in nursing. One thing's for sure, Moses Cochran will be missed.

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