Northwestern Trojans’ defense disrupts on football field

bbyers@heraldonline.comNovember 29, 2012 

  • SCHEDULE

    FRIDAY

    At Benedict College, Columbia

    Class AA Div. I

    Christ Church vs. Johnsonville, 5:30

    Class AA Div. II

    Bishop England vs. Abbeville, 8:30

    SATURDAY

    At Williams Brice Stadium,

    Columbia

    Class AAAA Division II

    Greenwood vs. Northwestern, noon

    Class AAAA Division I

    Dutch Fork vs. Gaffney, 3

    Class AAA

    Union County vs. Hartsville, 6

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    tickets $10 advance and at gate

— You've heard it hundreds of times.

Offense puts fannies in the seats, but defense wins football games.

Northwestern might have a good case in arguing that point. The Trojans are averaging 436 yards of total offense and 42 points, while converting 47 percent of third down chances. The 'Air Raid' offense is in the steady hands of quarterback Mason Rudolph, who has thrived in the fast-break formations brought in by coach Kyle Richardson.

But there could be times when Northwestern's defense comes up big in its rematch with Greenwood for the Class AAAA Division II state championship at USC's Williams Brice Stadium in Columbia. The Trojans won, 42-10, in 2010.

Defensive coordinator James Martin, who came to Northwestern after six season as coach at Charlotte's South Mecklenburg High School, said his defense will be ready.

"When I interviewed, Kyle was impressed because I told him I was very aggressive. I like to blitz a lot and at times bring the house to shut down a crucial play. It's what I believe in and what I've been able to get our kids to by into.

"It's kind of similar to the 'Air Raid.' We have players all over the field and like to keep opponents guessing. If we do that, we can disrupt what a team wants to do on offense.''

This hasn't been an easy week of preparation. Last week in a 35-30 win over South Pointe, starting quarterback Evan Sims was injured, and his back-up, Thomas Turner got the call. Sims is a runner, seldom using the pass in the Eagles' double-wing ground game. Turner is a passer, and last week completed seven attempts for 280 yards and a touchdown.

Greenwood coach Gene Cathcart has been tight lipped on Sim's status and on who will play, forcing the Trojans to prepare for two quarterbacks.

Martin's scheme is a 3-5 defense: three down linemen, five linebackers and three defensive backs in man coverage. Martin said if a team lines up with four wide receivers, an adjustment is made to pull a linebacker and put him in coverage. That shouldn't be a concern on Saturday.

Russell Hubbs is the middle linebacker and said he enjoys being there. He can stare down the quarterback and get a quick read on what's coming.

"My job is to make the read and go straight to the ball,'' said Hubbs, also an outstanding Trojans wrestler. "The thing about this team is we play well together, and have extra incentive.

"Of course we want to win, but our goal is to execute on every play. If we don't we run gassers on Monday at practice. Gassers are 110 yards and we run until coach Martin thinks we know why we are running. We've had two games this season where we didn't have to run them.''

The Trojans have put up some good defensive numbers. They have 85 tackles for a loss, 27 sacks and 16 interceptions. Martin said he expects good things for his defense. He came aboard for spring practice and got a good feeling of the players' abilities and whee they best fit into the new scheme. Except for one player, 10 have started all season. Linebacker AJ McCoy was injured against Fort Mill and Gabe Gresham moved into his spot. Martin said McCoy has been cleared to play on Saturday and should see some time on the field. But Gresham has impressed him so much he'll be the starter.

Martin said his defensive players know when they pick up the paper on Saturday mornings they will read about the offensive players. Martin accepts that and recognizes his players in the film room, and they get accolades from their position coaches.

The other nine starters are noseguard Joe Burns; ends Shug Baxter and Rictavious Durham; linebackers Joshua Miller, Marcus Marshall and Jaquavious Mackey; corners O'Darryl Davis-Douglas and Corey Sargent and safety Jakari Golden.

"The good thing about our defense is we play as a team of 11 players,'' Baxter said. "When we walk onto the field, here are no individuals out there.

"I was on the 2010 championship team and got in for a few plays. But to play Greenwood again in my senior year? That's a great way to end my high school career.''

Barry Byers 329-4099

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