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’Catz D has made its own mark in 2013

Understated, but still very impressive

Published: Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013 12:25 a.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013 12:30 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Chris Johnson/Shaw Media)
Eastland-Pearl City's Tristan Schubert tackles Polo's Jeff Kimpel during a game earlier this season. While the Wildcatz offense has garnered a lot attention by putting up big points, the defense has been plenty stout during a 9-0 regular season.

The points have been coming in video-game like proportions, and the Eastland-Pearl City offense has received the requisite "oohs" and "ahhs" throughout the season.

But it has also overshadowed what has been one of the best defenses in the area, and the Wildcatz defenders have felt left out in the cold at times.

"I think the defense gets overlooked a bit," senior cornerback Mike Harrington said, "and we take pride in shutting the other team down. We've got a great balance, but I think the defense makes a lot of big plays and gets the offense back on the field to put up those big numbers."

While the offensive numbers are staggering – the Wildcatz are averaging 46.7 points per game and have scored at least 34 points in seven of nine games – the defensive numbers stack up just as well.

EPC hasn't allowed more than 21 points in any game, has only given up double-digits four times, and is holding opposing offenses to 11.4 points per contest.

But even with outscoring opponents 420-103 this season, don't think the EPC D is satisfied.

"We set our goals high; we wanted to give up six points or less on average every game," senior linebacker Ramsay Truckenmiller said. "We're not happy when teams score on us."

Some would say that those expectations are unrealistic. But many of the points scored on the Wildcatz have come late in games, when the outcome is no longer in doubt. Of those 103 points EPC has allowed, 63 of them – a full 61 percent – have come in the fourth quarter.

The key to the consistently suffocating D has been the ability to make plays at every level. The mindset coach Randy Asche and his assistants tried to instill throughout the offseason was to play better team defense, and the Wildcatz bought into that hook, line and sinker.

It also helps that they've been playing with a greedy attitude, and a bit of a chip on their shoulder thanks to their extremely potent offense.

"Our defensive line has been great all year; they fill all the holes, and really get in the way of the other teams' blockers," junior linebacker Chase Giedd said. "They rarely let us linebackers get the tackles, it seems like.

"Behind that strong D-line are a group of linebackers who know where to be and what to do when they get there, and an athletic secondary that makes it tough for teams to break big plays. We just mesh really well, and I think we make as many big plays – and at key moments – as the offense does."

Asche is quick to point out that though the defense sometimes feels under-appreciated by the fans and media, there's no such dynamic within the team.

The offense knows it gets its opportunities to put up such impressive numbers because the defense does its job in stopping the other team, and both units know their special teams does its part as well.

"I think out defense does get frustrated sometimes that the offense gets all the attention," Asche said, "but we're a strong team with kids who have confidence and trust in each other. We're extremely fortunate to have playmakers in every phase of the game, and it's a luxury we definitely don't take for granted."

It's a luxury that should come in handy for a lengthy playoff run. After second-round losses to Morrison in three straight seasons (2009-11), the Wildcatz lost a first-round game to Orion after a 9-0 regular season and NUIC Northwest title in 2012.

That loss has been chafing the 'Catz for the past 369 days, and they're frothing and seething and chomping at the bit to rectify that situation Saturday against Luther North (5-4).

"We want to come out and play angry, just really make up for last year," Harrington said. "We all remember what that felt like, and we're going to feed off that. We want to come out and make a statement early on, and just trust our instincts and make the big plays – on both sides of the ball – when the chances are there."

And while EPC would love to make that early statement with a quick lead, the defense is ready to do its part to make sure that lead continues to grow throughout the game.

"The offense does so well, and there's a lot less pressure on our defense because of it," Truckenmiller said. "But it works the other way, too, and our defense loves setting the tone as much as our offense does. It's a lot of fun when we can make big plays, and it's even better when we can do it on offense, defense and special teams. Hopefully, there's a lot of that on Saturday."

Suffocating D

• Eastland-Pearl City has allowed 11.4 points per game this season, and not given up more than 21 points in any one game. Conversely, the Wildcatz have scored 46.7 points per game, including six games of at least 46 points.

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