Teams that win the battle at the line of scrimmage are generally going to win a football game.
That was the case for Dixon last week against Monmouth-Roseville, and much of that success was due to the play of a pair of seniors: Dan Troutman and Quinton Douglas. They combined for 17 tackles and three sacks to lead the Dukes to a 25-0 blanking of the Titans.
They will be looking for a repeat performance this week when Burlington Central comes to town for a Big Northern crossover contest.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Troutman has had knee injuries in two of his seasons with the Dukes. He missed his freshman season due to a dislocation of his left kneecap. A year ago, he went down in Week 5 against LaSalle-Peru with a right knee dislocation, as well as a torn meniscus.
Now healthy, he moved from defensive tackle as a junior to defensive end as a senior, and the move seems to agree with him. He finished with 10 tackles, 1 1/2 tackles for loss and half a sack last week.
Troutman is enjoying life on the edge.
"There's a ton of different things you can do to disrupt the play," Troutman said, "compared to just blowing it up at tackle."
"He graded the highest for us on the defensive line," Dixon coach Dave Smith said of Troutman, "and it was because of his fast motor. He never stopped pursuing. He was a force all night long."
The same could be said of Douglas. The 5-8, 174-pounder is the team's strong safety, but a lot of his responsibility lies in run support and getting to the quarterback. He did both of those things well, with seven tackles and 2 1/2 sacks.
"He's very physical," Smith said of Douglas, a returning all-conference player. "He's a kid that can run with your fastest kid, and he can also come off the edge."
Douglas was quick to credit the whole Dixon defense, which allowed 330 yards to Monmouth-Roseville, but stiffened when it needed to, and also came up with four turnovers.
"Our defensive line, linebackers and safeties were all working together," Douglas said. "It was a team effort."
The Dukes will get a taste of life in the Big Northern with a visit from Burlington Central, one of the league's traditional powers. The Rockets have been to the playoffs 15 times in the past 28 seasons, but just once (2011) in the past six.
Central missed the playoffs a year ago after going 4-5, and is coming off a 28-18 loss at Hampshire in Week 1.
"They're supposedly going to introduce us to the conference," Troutman said, "but we'll see how that goes. I think we just need to show this new conference what we've got going into it, and just stick with it."
The game will be a particularly special one for Smith, as his first high school head coaching job was at Burlington Central. He went 50-22 in seven seasons (1997-2003) with the Rockets, and worked with several of the current BC coaching staff.
"It's going to be a special night for all of us," Smith said. "I know that the kids are psyched up and ready to go."
Burlington Central at Dixon
Where: A.C. Bowers Field
When: 7:30 Friday
Radio: 1460 AM
Twitter: Follow Patrick Mason (@pm22)