By CHARLIE CHITWOOD
Jefferson’s utter devastation of Old Boston/Boston/New Boston – there are three of ‘em, you know – is starting to draw comparisons to the high-scoring Bulldog squads of the past two seasons. And while this prolific offense may well stay within shouting distance of some record-setters, there’s an even larger story over on the other side of the football.
George Whitley, the ol’ ink-stained White Oak-turned-regional writer has caught on to the stubborn Bulldog defense. Only one touchdown allowed in the past three games for defensive coordinator Stephen Young’s charges tells a few things, but best of all it’s proving that having playmakers at all three layers of defense.
Like any good chocolate cake worth the name, the Dawgs defensive balance has reached from bottom to top. Talented defensive end Eric Gipson doesn’t even lead the front line in tackles – Tyler Cherry, commonly lined up on the opposite end of the defensive front, has been catching everything opposing teams send his way, seemingly to stay away from Gipson. Basically, it’s “so long frying pan, hello fire” for opposing running games.
Inside, the running opportunities are just as scarce. Jacari Mosley and Dillon Griffin have a combined 57 stops from their defensive tackle spots. Their strength and “hangin’-on” ability has made life easy for a linebacking corps that wants EVERY tackle. Brennan Varnell has been ferocious and leads the team with 69 tackles. Kannon Glover – right behind Varnell with 67 tackles – nonetheless leads the team in un-assisted, open-field tackles. His 36 solo tackles are a dozen more than his next teammate’s total and represent nearly 14% of the team’s total.
Heaping pain onto opponents’ misery is a linebacking corps that can strike as quickly as anyone in the middle layer. Malik Cannon is the only other Bulldog with more than 40 tackles while Maurice Williams (27 stops) and Henry Hill (20 tackles) are also regular contributors.
Jefferson’s advantage in the secondary on most nights almost isn’t fair. With extra-fast corners like Dee Black, Bryson Johnson – who has a pick and lead’s the team with five passes broken-up – and Kylan Thomas flying all over the place, what 3A teams this size can then add a trio of speedy and long-legged safeties – T.Q. Jackson, Lyrik Rawls and Trace Smith.
Jackson’s athleticism and tremendous reach obviously help when defending. The young Rawls seems to be improving each game and is dead even in total tackles (25) with Trace Smith. The lanky senior is the team’s ultimate last man standing – 23 of his 25 tackles were solo’s and prevented any kind of breakaway.
If you think back to the mid-to-late 2000’s, you’ll remember that no matter how many points Jefferson had scored before, there seemed to always be a Tatum Eagle squad ready to dash all hopes. Scott Hale’s teams were fast and athletic but little match for one of Andy Evans’ better squads. This year’s Bulldog team is starting to look a little like one of those Andy Evan squads.
► Watch Charlie interview Justin Rogers, Caleb Wallace, and Travon Johnson about the Bulldogs’s win over New Boston and tonight’s game with Hughes Springs:
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