There’s not a new philosophy involved with Linton’s defensive success in high school football this season — just the opposite, in fact — and the players themselves aren’t really impressed by what they’ve done so far.
But with seven shutouts in 13 games — had the Miners been greedy, they probably would have had at least nine shutouts and been unscored upon in playoff contests — it looks like the Linton defensive options are just about as impressive as the Miners’ offensive weapons.
Maybe just playing for Linton qualifies as a defensive philosophy. If nothing else, there’s a tone that’s been set and expectations that must be met, and the 2012 edition of the Miners has done all of that so far.
“Ever since week six I don’t think the varsity defense has given up a touchdown,” cornerback Cole Bradbury said this week. “We’ve been pretty awesome against the run, and last week we did pretty well against the pass.”
(Last week was the shutout of a West Washington team that had averaged over 34 points per game in its previous seven contests.)
“We just go out and play as a team,” said defensive end Ethan Lannan. “We work hard, and we rely on each other. We know our offense is capable of doing good things as long as we do our job [defensively].”
(West Washington never mounted a serious threat, by the way, even when presented with great field position.)
“We just have to perform,” added linebacker Dane Rupska. “We’ve always been known for our defense.”
(Right before gametime last week, the Miners had to make two position switches because of an injury. No problem at all.)
“We try to do gap control,” explained coach Steve Weber, who is only half joking when he says that every time the Miners try to make changes in what they do, it turns out the original method works better. “We’re not so much up the field [with penetration]; we want to squeeze the running lanes and put as many bodies as we can against the run.
“That puts a lot of pressure on our defensive backs,” the coach added, “but we want to stop the run first, and the kids understand it.”
(Bradbury and safety Koye Kaiser are among the state leaders in interceptions, and West Washington’s passing threats pretty much disappeared last week.)
If all that sounds pretty simple … well, maybe that’s the real philosophy.
“Keep it simple and play hard,” Weber said.
“We just try to be the best we can be,” added Lannan. “Play as fast as we can possibly play and be aggessive.”
“We keep the mentality of playing as a defensive team that doesn’t allow many yards,” said Rupska.
Because they’ve been members of the defensive unit for so long — seniors Bradbury and Lannan are three-year starters, junior Rupska a two-year regular — the Miners don’t consider what they’re doing this year anything special.
“Our defense is pretty comparable to last year,” said Bradbury. “We might tackle a little better or cover the pass a little better, but we were pretty good last year and I think we’re pretty good this year too.”
“Maybe we’re better at pass coverage,” Rupska guessed, “and we’re just as good as we were at stopping the run. [The 2011 and 2012 teams are] both pretty good defenses.”
“My sophomore year [our defense] wasn’t as good as the last two years,” added Lannan. “We were strong last year; this year I think we are a little bit stronger.”
“Last year’s defense was pretty good, and this year’s is right up there,” Weber said.
The Miner defense will be tested tonight, when Linton tries to avenge last year’s 17-0 semistate loss to Indianapolis Scecina. The 7:30 p.m. game is at least at Linton this year, and the unique way the Crusaders defended the spread offense last year is now a little more familiar to the Miners.
The bigger visitors will probably try to control the ball with their offense, the way they were able to keep Linton’s offense off the field a year ago.
“I’m looking forward to playing them. They ended our season last year, but that will force us to focus on how hard we’ve worked [since then],” Lannan said.
“Their backs are really quick and shifty,” Bradbury recalled. “We’ve got to break down and not fall for the juke moves … make sure tackles and let everybody else flow to the ball.”
And, as always, it will be a team effort, Lannan noted.
“If one guy doesn’t do his job, the defense doesn’t work,” he said.