Many coaches know football games are won in the trenches. If that battle depends on size, the LaFollette Owls have already won.
With a defensive front four of Mike Rhoads, Dallas Law, Tanner Boston and Peyton Webb, the Owls have some size up front. To defensive coordinator Jake Snider, they are bigger than any team that LaFollette will face in 2012.
“I definitely think that we’re going to be one of the biggest defenses as far as anybody in our conference and region,” Snider said. “We’ve got some young guys that don’t have a whole lot of experience, but they’re starting to kind of realize where they need to be, in the right position, to get the play done. They’re starting to get those techniques that we need them to do in order to get to the position at the right time.”
So, just how big is this defense? Combined, Rhoads, Law, Boston and Webb weigh in at 825 pounds, which is a pretty big line for a middle school. In fact, they only trail the University of Tennessee projected starters Marlon Walls, Gregory Clark, Steven Fowlkes and middle linebacker Herman Lathers by 255 pounds as a middle school squad.
Campbell County only out-weighs their younger counterparts by 182 pounds. For the Owls, that size will be crucial.
Coming off a disappointing 0-9 season last year, the LaFollette Owls are looking to turn things around. For them, it’s going to be the effectiveness of their defensive front seven that will propel them forward.
Playing a gap control defense, the Owls’ linemen will play a big part. That part won’t put them in the headlines of the newspaper, but they will be the difference makers.
“The main job, especially in gap control defense, is that the linemen take up the blockers so that the linebackers can make the plays,” Snider said. The linemen don’t like hearing that, but they get to take up the blockers, which then allows our linebackers the freedom to run to the ball, close the gap and do the stuff they need to do.”
With the speed of Alex Daugherty, David Burke and Josh Comer coming out of the backfield, LaFollette will look for a big surge from their defense. To Webb, they’re up to the challenge.
“We shouldn’t be stopped at the front seven, because we’re huge,” he said. “Our size is going to take up blocking, so that should leave our linebackers and [defensive backs] free.”
For Snider, the difference is going to be in the team’s experience. With another year under their belt, they know a little more about their jobs on the field.
“A lot of the guys we have, played defense last year, but maybe they were seventh graders or sixth graders,” he said. “They just hadn’t played a lot of football. Now, a lot of them have played for a whole year, so that’s only going to make them better. Their football knowledge has come a long way in the past year.”
Although the Owls are looking to be successful on their own field, they also have another goal in mind: preparation. According to Snider, the key to a good high school program is a good middle school prepping.
“We’ve really condensed the lingo as we’re running the same routes and using the words that they use,” he said. “Hopefully, when they do go to the high school and continue playing, they’ll be a little bit ahead of everybody else.”