3-peat Special Edition: Defense


Sophia Fuller and Jessica Klarman

Over the past three years, our football team has been successful in going 45-0 and winning three state championships. A key component to that success is our defensive unit.
Senior Jaden Mckenzie expresses the role defense plays in a team’s victories.
“One thing coach Lucas has always told us is defense wins championships, and I believe that,” Mckenzie said.
Tagg Bullock, senior, reflects on how it feels to go three seasons as a defender without a loss.
“I think it’s awesome to be in a program like this, and I think it shows how good our coaching is here,” Bullock said.
In order to give the team a chance, senior Nate Qualls knew he had to, “come out and play hard, fast and physical.”
Many players felt that prior experience to the Vance game was helpful in winning a third championship title.
“We weren’t first timers to this, so we knew what to expect,” senior Jadacus Logan said. “Some teams make the mistake of being bigger than the game, but the game is really the biggest thing, so we knew we had to lock in.”
Senior Isaiah Dickens said, “Playing in previous championship games we know that if we keep our composure we can do anything, and we can finish it. Once you see the guy to your left and right not panicking that gives you a sense of we’re good.”
Dickens recorded the first dominant quarterback sack in the second quarter of the championship game.
“It was more of like a wake up. It was like ‘we’re here now’ you know. Just to hear the crowd and see the d-line it really woke us up,” Dickens said. “Right after that play, Jadacus came with a big sack, and it woke Jaden up. Jaden had a lot of tackles for loss, so I’m just glad that came at the right time. It was right in the second quarter, and then everything just started coming after that.”
After being scored on in the first quarter, the defensive unit knew they had to step up.
“I think everyone just went out there after the first quarter, after the first play we got scored on, and everyone just decided it wasn’t going to happen again,” Bullock said. “We came out with another level of intensity that was necessary to win the game.”

When asked to describe the defensive unit in one word, senior Devon Grant didn’t hesitate before saying, “dominant.”
The defensive line was aware that they had to put pressure on the quarterback after the first play of the game.
“We knew they were going to come out hot, and that’s exactly what they did, so we knew we had to step it up,” Logan said. “As soon as we did, you could see the fear in the quarterback’s eyes cause as soon as the ball was hiked the quarterback was looking to see where we were, so that created a lot of good tension and gave the defensive backs a lot of unit time”
Throughout the season, the defensive line has focused on making bigger plays to enhance their mobility and range.
“Really we just wanted to be more sideline to sideline, make plays on the sidelines instead of just five yard plays, and to get in shape because we knew some games we would have to play the whole game,” Logan said.
The D-line also knew they had a few key things to work on to enable them to remain undefeated.
“We focused on putting pressure on the quarterbacks and not letting the running backs get open space,” Mckenzie said.
Senior Isaac Foster feels the biggest strength of the defensive unit is their focus and, “the way we stay together as a unit.”
Over the years, head coach Reggie Lucas drills the importance of the basics into the players’ heads.
“You need to take everything that is fundamental really serious,” Dickens said. “The fundamentals are really important. Giving it your all every time, coming out to the game you give it your all. When all that comes together it just comes out beautiful.”
Coach Lucas has taught the boys many valuable lessons that will stick with them as they move on with their careers.
“He tells us to just never give up and always play hard,” senior Nassir Mills said.
For the players, the fans play a big role in the game, even though they aren’t physically out on the field.
“Shoutout to the fans, they were really loud,” Dickens said, “They showed love every play. What y’all don’t know is we feed off of that. We hear y’all, and we want to do it again, so like I said kudos to the fans that came and supported.”
Many of the players believe placing senior Mateo Sudipo in the defensive unit helped the team come out on top.
“Having Mateo back there at cornerback, we know that he is a good cover guy,” Dickens said. “He’s going to give us at least 3-5 seconds, which is enough time for us to work a move and get off our blocks.”
Mills said, “He’s an x-factor. You put him anywhere he’s going to get the job done.”
Jacob Rodgers, senior, says Sudipo helped a lot on defense and, “is a big play maker.”
Junior Chance Smith reflects on how he felt after winning the Defensive MVP Honors.
“It was shocking feeling. I didn’t really know how to react to it. I wasn’t expecting to get it, but I was happy, proud and blessed. I was proud of myself for that achievement.”
After being on the team for only two seasons, Dickens found one word to characterize the defensive unit.
Dickens said, “Resilient. There was a lot of times, especially in the season, that we had bent but we didn’t break.”