Photo: Reece Burton is leading the Tigers’ defense with 11.3 tackles per game. He had 17.5 and four tackles for a loss against Greenbrier East.
By DAVE MORRISON
PRINCETON- Boasting a record-setting offense sometimes makes it easy to overlook the fact that Class AAA No. 10 boast a pretty good defense.
If tangible numbers exist proving the might of the offense – numbers like points production (344 points in eight games) or the record-setting production by quarterback Grant Cochran and receivers Josiah Honaker and Ethan Parsons and the running of 1,000-yard rusher Amir Powell – there is also tangible numerical proof of the defense’s stout play.
• After giving up 306 yards passing to Bluefield in their second meeting (Princeton’s two losses came to the Beavers this year) the Tigers have given up just 237 combined passing yards in their current five-game win streak.
• The Tigers have given up up just 158 points, 69 in those two losses to Bluefield (15-13 and 54-40) and 33 to playoff-bound John Marshall after the Tigers went up 62-12 at the half, and won 68-33. Princeton (6-2) gave up 14 points in each of four other games and last week shut out playoff-bound George Washington 21-0.
• Greenbrier East had the area’s top rushing attack in the area when the teams met Oct. 30, averaging 348.3 yards per game. Princeton held the Spartans to 165 yards on the ground in a 54-14 victory.
• Last week the Tigers held George Washington’s high-octane passing offense, RJ. Alexander averaged 204.3 yards per game passing, to just 66 yards in a 21-0 victory.
• The Tigers have only given up over 200 yards rushing this season, in the John Marshall game and the second Bluefield game. The Tigers allowed 1,453 yards rushing (181.6 ypg) and just 5.0 yards per carry on 288 attempts.
• The defense has accounted for 14 turnovers, 10 interceptions and four fumble recoveries.
The secret behind the defense?
“We are a bend but not break type of defense,” coach Chris Pedigo said. “We try to limit the big plays. Two big plays by (Brando ) Wiley in the Bluefield game and a big run play by the (Dalton) Flowers kid in John Marshall game has been about it this season.”
With a quick strike offense you’d think there might be concern with the defense spending too much time on the field. That hasn’t been the case for two reasons.
“I think this year it really hasn’t mattered,” Pedigo said. “We have six guys play defense that do not play offense. Our skill guys go both ways but our energy has been infectious on the defensive side.”
That defense shows a defense of corners Ethan Parsons – at 6-4 one of the taller corners you will find – and Josiah Honaker, and safety Peyton Clemons. Amir Powell and Eli Padgett are the I’m outside linebackers and Reece Burton and Brodee Rice man the inside linebacker spots.
Along the defensive line are defensive end Justin Young, nose guard Matt Lewis, defensive tackle Sam Jones and Khamrin Proffitt is the stud (hybrid defensive end-outside linebacker).
Ta’Vahjay Smith (safety), Carter Meachum (OLB), Noah Basham(ILB), Eli Campbell (nose) and Blake Helphenstine (defensive tackle) provide relief.
“I think we have played complimentary football between our offense and defense,” Pedigo said. “We have been able to make a lot of big plays on offense and our defense has been able to come out and make big stops all year long.”
The Tigers will have to go on the road and take on another high-octane passing attack in Wheeling Park fueled by quarterback Beau Heller who has completed 104 of 144 passes (72.2 percent) for 1,409 yards, 18 touchdowns, just three interceptions
But Pedigo said the team, and the coach in particular, was motivated by what he said was the best performance of the year last week.
“I think the play this past Friday night showed what our defense is all about,” Pedigo said. “Holding a Scott Tinsley offense to under 70 yards passing just blew me away. Our secondary was all over the field the other night and our front six was getting pressure.
“Our defense has been solid this season, so proud of their effort and their energy.”