THE TOUCHDOWNS occurred on opposite sides of the ball and could not have featured much more of a contrast.

For one thing, the second covered 88 more yards than the first. For another, it involved all kinds of running after the first offered nothing but high-quality soaring/snatching.

Say hello to Daquan Cooper, now of George Washington High and soon to do his football thing at Temple. As for what side of the ball will be honored by the presence of the 5-10, 165-pound Cooper . . . the jury's still out and that makes damn good sense.

In beautiful weather Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field, Cooper posted a pair of eye-popping TDs as Public numbed Non-Public, 30-20, in the 37th annual Philadelphia Eagles City All-Star Football Classic, cutting its deficit to 20-16-1 and halting a three-game skid.

His first, a 7-yarder on a pass from schoolmate Tony Smith (Delaware State), was made 33 seconds before halftime in the southeast corner and, when followed by a conversion pass to Tyrin Stone-Davis (Jules Mastbaum Tech, prep school), rallied the Pub within one point, at 17-16.

His second, a 95-yard interception return, breaking the game record for that variety of play by 28 yards, came with 4 minutes, 25 seconds showing in the fourth quarter and, when followed by another two-point pass (Smith to Northeast's Rashaun Sligh), provided sufficient breathing room at 30-20.

So, Daquan, once you're an Owl, and playing your games in this very same stadium, what's it gonna be?

"They have me down as an 'athlete,' " Cooper said. "I'm hoping to play receiver, but wherever they want me is fine. I'm a team player.

"I like catching the ball. Even on defense. I can't explain it, really. I just feel better over there."

Cooper's receiving TD came out of a trips-right, Cooper-to-the-left alignment, and was a hitch-and-go to the back corner. Talk about tight quarters. He used every last inch of room, with a defender counting his fillings.

"Tony gave me a good ball. I just had to pop up there and get it and make sure my feet were in," Cooper said. "We ran that play a lot in the season and always practiced it."

The pick was made on the same side of the field, though at the opposite end.

Folks barely neared Cooper, let alone came close to stopping him, as he raced upfield for an easy TD.

"I like running, and that one was about 80 yards," Cooper said.

Ninety-five, actually.

"Damn, it was 95!?" he said, laughing. "I didn't know. Running downfield I kept thinking, 'I can't wait to win this game.' "

Prior to Cooper's heroics, the day's best defensive play belonged to linebacker Camille Max (Northeast, West Chester). Just 3:40 earlier, Max posted an interception at the Pub 49 in the middle of the field and roared to a 51-yard TD, thus providing a 22-20 lead.

Max merely dropped back in coverage, cradled the errant pass and likewise experienced no threats until just inside the 10. After evading two defenders, he stopped at the goal line, turned and tumbled backward into the end zone.

Hmm. Where had he seen that before?

"That was my DeSean Jackson," Max cracked. "I was thinking about doing that all week. I kept saying, 'I'm gonna catch a pick, then do a DeSean.' Nice, right?

"I just missed a couple other interceptions. Just slightly out of position. We had a linebacker dropping back into the deep third and since I'm the fastest guy, it was me."

That the Public squad claimed the win thanks to pilfer TDs was quite ironic. Earlier, it had often been shredded by John Loughery (Penn Charter, prep school) and Anthony Reid (West Catholic, Stevenson University), who combined for 286 yards. Plus, a trick-play pass by Paul McGann (St. Joseph's Prep, Franklin & Marshall) produced another 33 yards.

The major receiver was 6-4 Jaelen Strong-Rankin, who'll go from West Catholic to Pierce (junior) College in Woodland Hills, Calif.

All he did was turn seven catches into 237 yards and TDs of 52 and 61 yards (both from Loughery). He broke the game record for receiving yards (140) even before intermission, then expanded it to one that might last forever.

Speaking of forever . . . that's how long another Pub star, defensive end Claudy Mathieu (Washington, James Madison), who lived in the N-P backfield thanks to man-child dominance, will treasure the win.

Beforehand, his final high school memory was getting thrown out of the Pub final and seeing Northeast victimize his replacement for a trick-play TD that decided the game.

"Ah, man. Bad memories," Mathieu said. "I was crying. I had the worst possible feeling. But now, this will be my last high school memory. I needed this.

"I didn't expect it. Honestly, I thought we were going to get bashed. Everybody was talking about the Catholic League guys. How much talent they had. One score I was hearing was 55-7. When you're the underdog, you've gotta play your heart out. We did it."


N-P's Christian Guinan (Chestnut Hill Academy) hit field goals of 29 and 19 yards. He is going to Temple as a preferred walk-on . . . In its most recent four losses, the Pub had been outscored, 146-35 . . . Brian Dones (CHA; going to Trinity College) had a N-P pick . . . Dones and Claudy Mathieu were the defensive MVPs. Daquan Cooper and Jaelen Strong-Rankin earned offensive honors . . . Washington's Brandon Chudnoff, who'll join Cooper at Temple, recovered a fumble . . . Sportsmanship winners: Jamil Morgan (Simon Gratz, Pub) and Mark Casale (St. Joseph's Prep, N-P) . . . The defensive coordinator for the Pub was Edward Bok Tech assistant Vince Trombetta, who has been part of most of that team's victories. *