By Dave Morrison
HINTON – One of the great storylines through the first part of last season’s playoffs was Summers County’s surging defense.
Those boisterous Bobcats are at it again.
Lest year you may recall Summers County shutting out Fayetteville at Fayetteville 22-0 to not on posts a goose egg but to make the postseason.
The Bobcats then shutout Webster County on the road before traveling to Midland Trail and posting a 6-0 victory. That victory was especially impressive given that the Patriots were averaging over 30 points per game.
Well, Class A No. 13 Summers County (6-3) is at it again. They entertain Fayetteville in the season finale riding a six-game win streak, including five straight games in which they have held the opponent in double figures.
Granted, it’s not a shutout of three straight playoffs teams but it and impressive streak.
“I’ve been the part of some really great defenses,” coach Chris Vicars said. “But I’m not sure that even that team has five straight games giving up single digits.”
The six straight wins have helped the Bobcats overcome an 0-3 start (when it was giving up 34 ppg against PikeView, Shady Spring and Mount View while it was scoring just 17.7 ppg).
Since Summers County has beaten Greenbrier West (the team’s oldest nemesis) 19-14, Liberty 44-8, Independence 35-9, Meadow Bridge 34-6, Pocahontas County (54-7) and Richwood (54-6).
Obviously, most of those teams aren’t vying for the playoffs and are sub .500. But they are also not suffering the same non-offensive output against other teams. In it’s there games Greenbrier West averages 19.5 points (-5.5 vs. Summers), Independence 20.3 (-11.3), Meadow Bridge 18.5 (-12.5), Pocahontas 17.3 (-10.3) and Richwood 26.4 (20.4).
Only Meadow Bridge topped its average with eight points and it averaged 5.3 in its other eight.
Plus, there is the sheer aesthetic value of looking at the numbers on the Bobcats defensive side of the ledger.
The catalyst is versatility Vicars said.
“We have a lot of kids that we can move around and we can do a lot of things with those moving parts,” Vicars said. “We have played four-man front, five-man front and six-man fronts and when you do that you have to be versatile. Sometimes we will walk our safety up on the line and sometimes we have a linebacker move onto the line.
Down and distance, personnel and formations make the difference.
For instance, Vicars said the Bobcats were in the six-man front about six or seven plays, the four-man front 25-30 plays and the rest was five-man front.
Rolling into different defenses, not just different coverages, takes a lot of work.
“You really have to coach kids up today,” Vicars said. “You can’t assume they know all the football terminology or understand the concepts of what you are trying to do. You have to throw a lot at them and that means you’ve got to drill it. Sometimes in games I think we really have it down bit then in practice I’m not so sure.”
The amazing thing is Summers County doesn’t have the big-play defender, a guy like Andrew Richmond, an all-state defensive lineman last year (defensive end) who could change games with a clutch sack or tackle for a loss or a run stopper like nose guard Tucker Bennett.
“We haven’t the big explosive plays that we’ve had on defense, the big sacks or a long scoring play on defense,” Vicars said. “What we do have are a group of guys who can move around and do the things that we need to be do to be successful and they do it well.”
One strength has been the senior-laden defensive backfield led by Christian Pack. That group of cagey veterans, safeties Pack and sophomore Keandre Sarver and corners Brandon Adkins and Sam Wykle are able to get the defense where it needs to be as far as formation and coverages.
Trent Meador has been a standout at linebacker, leading the team with 66.5 tackles (assists counting as half a tackle in the Bobcats scoring system. He is joined by Jalin Keaton and Cordell Meadows.
Marcus McGuire has moved from linebacker to defensive end, a move that suits his talent and he leads the team with 3.5 sacks and has 8.5 tackles for a loss and Caleb Harvey had doubled his output on the defensive line this season. Ethan Koenig and Kaleb Vaughan are also on the defensive line.
“We’ve really started to tackle well in the last few games and we have also done better with turnovers,” Vicars noted.
The Bobcats have 17 turnovers, 10 fumble recoveries. They also have 9.5 sacks, which is not a boatload and 61 tackles for a loss. Not earth-shattering numbers.
A lot of team’s have stats that dwarf those numbers.
But, the number that stands out, and that is, at the end of the day, is the most important is 50. That’s the number of points Summers County has surrendered in the last six games, a streak that has the Bobcats right in the thick of the playoff hunt.
Now comes Fayetteville, a team that will look a bit different given that starting quarterback Logan Frantz went down with a leg injury last week against Mount View. The likely candidate is Jordan Dempsey, who took over in that game and started his career at quarterback before becoming an all-state RB as a sophomore. He did throw the teams only TD pass last week.
“He’s a heck of a player and we have to recognize where No. 89 (Frantz) is at all times,” Vicars said. “They have a great coaching staff over there and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him at quarterback and or if somebody else is in there and giving him the ball running in different formations. We have to know where No. 9 is at all times.”