By Dave Morrison
ESPN Radio 102.3 The Ticket
You’ve seen the offensive numbers put up by Independence and Fayetteville. We’re certainly not stretching the field when we say they have been quite impressive.
Independence has averaged 55.5 points per game, and everybody is getting in on the act. The leader is, of course, Markus Guy. He scored four times against PikeView last Friday. Oh by the way, he touched the ball four times. Once a run, once a pass, twice on punt returns.
Fayetteville has been nearly as good, putting up 35.5 points per game. Quarterback Will Fenton has thrown seven touchdown passes in two games, to four different receivers. Against Valley he was 9 for 10 passing for 200 yards and five touchdowns. Oh, that’s in one half.
As impressive as these numbers are, and they are impressive, the defenses have been not oply equal to the task, they’ve been better.
Independence’s stout defense held PikeView to minus-7 yards rushing on 36 attempts. Midland Trail had 143 yards, a lot of that on a scoring drive late in the game. If you are scoring at home, that’s a paltry 1.84 yards per carry.
Fayetteville has pitched two shutouts, winning 28-0 at Clay on a very emotional night for Clay County, recovering from the June floods, and 43-0 over Valley.
Valley had just one yard of total offense in that game.
Now that is impressive.
“Our defense is probably (overshadowed by the offense),” Fayetteville coach Dave Moneypenny said. “If we continue to hold teams down then it will gain some attention. If is the big word.”
Linebacker Marcus Lively is the playmaker on defense for the Pirates. Last season he played nearly half the season with a broken collarbone.
“He’s the top dog (on defense),” Moneypenny said. “He can pressure from the outside and also underneath from the inside. He can zone drop versus the pass or man up on a particular receiver. He is very versatile and he is physical.”
The linebackers as a group have been staunch, Tristan Swafford (who had four sacks against Clay)on the outside and Seth Clodfelter on the inside.
“(Swafford) is relentless, he plays with no regard for his body and (Clodfelter) plays sideline to sideline,” Moneypenny said.
Defensive tackle Braden Broach brings it on every play, with a “motor that never stops,” the coach said. Tritan Treadway, who Moneypenny calls Big Country (at 6-foot-5, 270 pounds it’s easy to see why) is also eating up double teams despite playing his first year of football after sitting out with an ACL tear last fall.
“Our safeties, particularly Alex Hewitt, are providing excellent run support, and he (Hewitt) is a heck of a cover guy,” Moneypenny added.
At Independence the defense is just about what head coach Chris Vicars thought it would be at this point.
“Once I saw them live and in color (in preseason scrimmages) I expected them to be pretty good,” Vicars said.
Guy showed his metal last year with 12 tackles and three forced fumbles against Bridgeport in the first round of the Class AA playoffs.
Noah Adams has added a legitimate challenge as a first-year linebacker, because of his wrestling background and athletic ability.
The real difference for the Patriots has been a little wrinkle on the defensive front, with the emphasis on little if you go by weights and measures alone. Chase Mills (5-7, 175) and Haegan Harvey (5-7, 155) are playing the two tackle positions. They are getting the job done in the land of the big men up front.
“They are creating as much problems for people as anybody else,” They have caused fumbles, they have caused snap issues,” Vicars said. “They’ve been really good for us.”
That might be the coaching move of the season to this point.
“Our defensive coordinator, coach (Scott) Cuthbert wanted to try them in there,” Vicars said. “He thought they might be pretty good there and they have been very good for us in there.”
As for the size, the outward look simply masks the heart with which the two play with inside the trenches. Vicars said he was never concerned with the perceived lack of size.
“Not a whole lot only because Mills has put on probably 25-30 pounds of muscle,” Vicars said. “He looks small but he is actually pretty stout. Haegen is a wrestler, scrappy. We originally thought he was going to play in the secondary. But on the scout team (in the past) he didn’t back down from anybody we’ve had in the last two years. They both hold their own up there.”
Mills has 16 tackles and has forced a fumble. Harvey has 11 tackles, two fumble recoveries and he has recorded a safety.
Independence faces its toughest matchup of the season against perennially strong James Monroe. Fayetteville will be at Richwood.
While the offenses have certainly shined for these two 2-0 teams, the defenses have certainly been a factor. And these defenses show no signs of resting anytime soon.