Greenway High football brought back most of its starting defensive core from last season. Coach Ed Cook said he could tell as far back as spring practices last school year the unit could be special, as long as the unit could “keep it simple.”
With playmakers at all levels, the Demons allowed more than 14 points in just one game en route to a 5-1 record, behind one of the best defenses in the 4A conference. The success comes as no shock to the coaching staff.
“We expected our defense to be pretty good with all the talent we had and now this is our second year running it. It’s just very simple and once our kids understand their reads and what they’re doing, they just get to pin their ears back and fly,” Cook said.
One of Greenway’s major strengths is its pass rush. The Demons’ ability to get into opposing backfields makes playing defense easier for the rest of the group.
Linebackers and defensive backs have to cover receivers for a shorter period of time. They can play more aggressively, knowing those rushing the quarterback will get to him quickly.
Through five games, the Demons had three players with four or more sacks and several others with multiple tackles for losses. Because there are several quality Demons who can rack stops behind the line of scrimmage, opposing teams cannot just double-team a single player, for fear another might step up in his stead.
“If you take out one guy, there’s another one right there waiting to make a play. It makes us scary,” said senior safety Jace Creed.
The offense, a young group Cook said came into the year with seven new starters, also benefits from the defensive production. Good field position from forced turnovers and early stops shrinks the unit’s distance needed to score.
Also, junior running back Christian Johnson said the toughest defense the offense faces is often from Monday to Thursday in game preparation, giving it an edge on Fridays.
“It makes it so when we’re going up against other defenses we know how to make plays. It slows down a lot for us because our own guys are so fast and relentless every day at practice. They really go at us,” he said.
Beginning with a home game against Shadow Mountain on Friday, the Demons will play the second half of the season in 4A Skyline region play. Greenway went 5-0 in the region last season and will look to have repeat success in 2019.
And, if the defensive production continues and the offense gels together more, there is no reason to doubt the Demons will have a legitimate chance at one of 4A’s best records and a high seed come playoff time.
“People want to make this game complicated, but it’s really not,” Cook said. “Play good defense, and you’re going to win games.”