y Dave Morrison
How good has Shady Spring’s defense been this season?
The numbers tell part of the story.
Consider that in seven games, the Tigers have given up just 561 yards rushing, an average of 2.6 yards per carry and just over 80 yards per game.
Teams have thrown for 754 yards, a total of 1,315 yards total offense. The Tigers average giving up just 107.7 yards per game and 3.9 yards per play.
More importantly, they have given up just 64 points, nearly one third of that against Wyoming East in a 27-20 victory last week.
“We’ve come up with some key stops and the defense has been tough all year,” coach Vince Culicerto said. “They’re resilient. They stick with it, they don’t give up and they make big plays when we need them.”
All that, though, it part of the story.
Consider too, who the Tigers have stopped.
Last week, Wyoming East’s Caleb Bower, who entered the game rushing for over 200 yards in three straight games, was limited to 62 yards and a touchdown. Wyoming East had 98 yards rushing total.
And that is actually above average.
Against the area’s leading rusher, Independence’s Atticus Goodson, the Shady Spring defense held the sophomore to 35 yards on 13 carries and no touchdowns. That’s an average of 2.7 yards per carry. In six other games Goodson has 1,174 yards yards rushing and 19 touchdowns, an average of 195.7 yards per game.
In the Tigers lone loss, 19-13 to a fully-loaded Nicholas, the defense held its own, giving up just 117 yards rushing and no Grizzly player had over 34 yards rushing. It’s worth noting that Timmy Baker (20 yards), Justin Hill (25) and Zach O’Dell (34) each went over 100 yards a week earlier against Oak Hill.
“My brother Phil does an outstanding job breaking down film from the other teams and getting the boys ready,” Culicerto said. “We try to find the plays that they like to do, or the players that can hurt you and then eliminate that.”
They have done that and then some, behind a defense with a nice mixture of veterans and youthful impact players.
“This defense is tough,” Culicerto said. “We’ve got some veterans in some key spots. (Linebackers) Haven Chapman and Isaac Harvey were huge (against Wyoming East).”
Culicerto mentioned the fact that sophomore linebackers Caleb Whittaker and Bryson Pinardo have stepped up to fill key roles.
A key position of concern was supposed to be on the defensive line, were the Tigers lost Terymykal Alexander and Aaron Harmon.
“Everybody said Terymykal was leaving and Harman, and what are we going to do,” Culicerto said. “Little brother Shadraq (Alexander, a 6-foot-1, 290-pound senior) ain’t too shabby and Kolby Ellis (5-10, 230, senior) and the defensive ends (Stephen) Crook (6-1, 220) and (Thomas) Morgan (5-8, 240) have done a super job.”
Add to that a ball-hawking secondary led by Jadon Hershberger, who had three of the Tigers six interceptions in a season-opening victory against Lincoln County and Isaiah Valentine, who had a key pick against Wyoming East to seal that win last week, and you have a staunch defense.
The Tigers now move on to play Oak Hill.
“Oak Hill is no joke,” Culicerto said. “They’re not a bad team and we’re going to have to play football and that’s what we will get them ready for.”