TERRE HAUTE —
You can learn a few things inadvertantly when talking to Terre Haute North linebacker Lee Davis.
Take this statement, for example, the answer to a question about how the Patriot defense has performed so far this high school football season.
“Coach [Clint] Davis [North’s defensive coordinator] is always trying to make us better,” the North senior said earlier this week, “and coach [Alex] Bettag [a first-year defensive assistant] has added another dimension.”
Back up a minute. Coach Davis?
“That’s been the rule since third grade,” said Clint Davis, who is the linebacker’s father. “On the field, I have to be coach Davis.”
“He’s a very respectful kid,” coach Chris Barrett of the Patriots said of Lee Davis. “He gets it … he’s one of the nicest kids you’ll meet off [the field].”
Lee Davis is also a four-year starting middle linebacker in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference, however, and the other seven schools aren’t really sorry he’ll be leaving soon. It’s not the position or the league for someone nice.
“It’s just a tough, physical, draining position,” Barrett noted, “and he’s loved every minute of it. He’s never backed down from a challenge.
“He’s just mean on the field,” the coach added appreciatively. “He flips that switch. He plays with a lot of passion, confidence and physicality, and yet he’s a very humble kid who has never slacked off in practice.”
Sounds like the leader of a pretty good defensive unit, and both Davis and the Patriots have fit that description this year.
The 6-foot-1, 230-pounder had a tackle on one-third of the plays run by a Patriot opponent earlier this season, to give one example. With him in the middle, successful goal-line stands have become the rule rather than the exception for a Patriot team that fights for every inch, particularly with its back to the wall. The tone that’s been set has already assured North of a winning season and a first-division finish in the MIC, and the Patriots don’t think they’re done yet.
“We feel confident,” Davis said this week as the Patriots prepared for a second-round Class 5A Sectional 6 game at 7 p.m. today against Avon. “The defense is playing real good, the offense is getting it together, we’re making big plays … we believe we can keep it going.
“We want to get a sectional title. That’s the team goal right now,” he added, “but one game at a time.”
Davis — who also sees some action at fullback, where not surprisingly he’s often a lead blocker — can remember a time when North’s defensive unit wasn’t as well respected.
“My freshman year our defense wasn’t that great,” he admitted this week. “Now we like to think of ourselves as a bunch of hard-hitting fools who have got each other’s backs. I think someone said we’re ranked seventh in Class 5A [defensively].
“We knew we had a chance to be real good [this year],” Davis said of the Patriot defensive unit. “A lot of guys have stepped up” as he proceeded to name virtually every other starter: safeties Austin Massey and Ryan Moshak; corners Cole Seward and Kai Stratten; fellow linebackers Vasco Billberry and Wyatt Stoelting; tackles Ricky Scank, Ronnie McConnell and Alan Grayless; and ends Chris “Chief” Spencer and Calvin Blank.
“Defensively we’re solid at every position this year, and with good depth,” Barrett said. “They are all smart kids with a ton of experience, and they’ve all bought into what coach Davis and the defensive staff preach — physical play, making tackles and forcing turnovers. They’re doing their job first, then getting to the ball. They’ve taken pride in good, solid defense.”
Asked about his own contributions to the unit, Davis didn’t say as much.
“It’s been a good year,” he noted. “It’s my senior year, so I’ve got to go out with a bang.”
Sounds like an appropriate sound.