High school football: Winning teams stop the run

tstevens@newsobserver.comOctober 1, 2013 

West Johnston's Jarvin Holder (10) gets tackled by Knightdale's Justin Blango (11) during Knightdale's game against West Johnston High School, Friday, September 27, 2013 in Benson, NC, Knightdale won 24-10.

JOHNNY JOHNSON — newsobserver.com Buy Photo

  • How they rank

    Rushing defense

    School (Record)GAYYPG
    Knightdale (4-1)511536472.4
    Millbrook (4-1)5189548109.6
    Middle Creek (3-2)5165592118.4
    Sanderson (2-3)5154605121.0
    Northwood (4-1)5162636127.2
    Green Hope (4-2)6196795132.5
    Wake Forest (5-0)5169671134.2
    Panther Creek (4-1)5166754150.8
    Cary (2-3)5930766153.2
    Heritage (4-1)5189786157.2
    Clayton (5-1)6223944157.3

    Scoring defense

    Lee County*66110.2
    Panther Creek55611.2
    South Granville*56713.4
    Wake Forest57515.0
    West Johnston58316.6
    Corinth Holders*Rushing defense totals not available58517.0

The best way to win high school football games is stopping the opponents’ running game, or at least there is a strong correlation between rushing defense and overall success.

Nine of the top dozen area teams in rushing defense are in the N&O high school football rankings.

Top-ranked Wake Forest is seventh in run defense, allowing 147.6 yards per game and 3.9 yards per carry.

Millbrook’s turnaround this season, moving from a 3-8 finish in 2012 to 4-1, has been fueled by its defense against the run. The Wildcats are allowing 109.6 yards per game and 2.9 yards per rush.

“Our defense has stepped up,” Millbrook coach Clarence Inscore said after the Wildcats held Enloe to minus-21 rushing yards in a 56-13 victory last week. “The defense has played very well all season. Our kids have grown up some.”

The area’s best team against the run is 4-1 Knightdale, which is allowing only 72.4 rushing yards a game and 3.2 yards per carry.

“We want 11 hats to the ball,” Knightdale coach Rob Senseney said. “We stress that every day in practice.

“Also, defensive-wise we expect our team to play as a unit. So if D-line does its job, then the linebackers will have a good night, and if the linebackers are having a good night, then the DBs will do well.”

Wake Forest has been among the area’s rushing defense leaders every year under coach Reggie Lucas. The Cougars’ defense is centered around stopping the run.

“Our philosophy is simple,” Lucas said. “We do not want the ball going north or south. We try to spill the ball to the outside.

“We feel if we take the run away, you will have to pass and we can try and scheme for that. If we can't stop the run, we will probably have a long night.”

Lucas said the Cougars adapt their defense each week, but the front four and linebackers are the key to stopping the run.

“The linebackers have to fit with the D-line based on the blocking scheme we are getting,” he said. “We should never have two hats in the same gap. Every player has a gap responsibility. If the players get to their responsibilities, they will have a better chance at stopping the run.”

Stevens: 919-829-8910

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