Playing pass defense as a defensive back in high school football against good quarterbacks is one of more difficult tasks there is.
Yes, I was at the Southeast-Garner game Friday night, which had several pass interference penalties called. This is not about any of those calls. By the letter of the rule, everything called was defensive pass interference. Instead, this is about the set of rules that cover passing down the field.
The first thing to remember in high school football is that there’s no such thing as an uncatchable ball. If the ball is thrown to a receiver and a defender inhibits his ability to get to the ball — no matter how high/low said ball is, it’s pass interference.
And if you’re a DB playing against a good, physical receiver, you’re at at even bigger disadvantage because high school football officials rarely call offensive pass interference even when it happens.
The only area where defenses have the advantage in the passing game in prep ball is in the backfield where there’s no inside/outside of the pocket designation so the quarterback can’t throw the ball away without drawing an intentional grounding penalty.
So unless you’ve got four guys in your secondary with islands named after them, your best defense in the high school passing game is always going to be outstanding pass rush.
Confident run game powering the Bulldogs
Southeast Raleigh has a big time quarterback recruit, talented receivers and a defense that’s been toughened by probably the toughest schedule played in the state so far. The aspect of the Bulldogs’ squad that future opponents will have to deal with is their run game.
The Bulldogs went over 1,300 yards rushing on the season in their Week 5 win over rival Garner and that ability to slash for big yardage on the ground consistently (without costly penalties) is what made the most difference between the offenses.
Seniors Donte Wooten, Deyonje Pendarvis, Julian Holt and juniors Jesse Sweeney and Joshua Peterson all in at least their second year of starting on the offensive line, runners like Lee Holmes, Jeffery Onyegbule have the running lanes to produce.
“They’ve played two years now, they really started believing in themselves late last season, and their confidence shows this year,” said Southeast Raleigh coach Michael Thibideau. “Last year, we’d have thrird-and-1 or third-and-2 and they’d want to run it. Now, we’ll have third-and-10 and those guys are saying to the coaches, ‘We, can run for it.’”
The production is evident in the Bulldogs’ rushing numbers.
Last year, Southeast ran for just over 1,100 yards as a team. This year? They went over 1,400 on the season in the win over Garner.
Defense getting better for North Johnston
Defensive play is something that’s powered North Johnston’s run to a 4-1 record. The Panthers earned their first shutout since Oct. 22, 2010 with Friday’s 27-0 victory over Smithfield-Selma.
And North has allowed just 30 points in its last three games. They’ll face one of their toughest challenges so far this season when the Panthers host South Johnston Friday.
“Defense fought hard all night long,” said North coach Ashley Ennis after the win over SSS. “Defense getting better, tackling better and forcing turnovers. (But there’s) still long ways to go. We played hard and we have to do that every game. South’s coming in and that will be a big challenge for us.”
West looking for more consistent offense
Against Rolesville, West Johnston managed just one offensive touchdown: a 34-yard touchdown pass from Andre Wilson to Deandre Blevins in the third quarter. It stopped a string of 8 straight quarters without scoring a point and nine without a touchdown. (They were shut out in the second half against Cleveland and fell to Middle Creek 56-0 last week).
The Wildcats gained 282 yards last week against the Rams but were 1 of 14 on third down conversions. They'll need to rectify that against a battle-tested Southeast Raleigh defense this week.
Getting the offense into a rhythm early will be key for a team capable of making a run at the top half of the Greater Neuse River Conference. The ideal formula for West going forward: pick up a few third-down conversions early, mix the pass and run and keep the defense (which has been busy the past three games) off of the field and that could be a winning formula.
Important week ahead for Comets
Clayton heads into the middle game of its football season with plenty of work to do.
There's no doubt the Comets have played a killer schedule, with losses to four near-certain playoff teams and a 48-0 win over struggling Smithfield-Selma.
Randy Pinkowski's club will have to find three more wins to be eligible for the playoffs, and this Friday's road contest at Harnett Central is a veritable must win to accomplish that feat.
“Defensively (against East Wake) how many times did we lose a guy at the line?,” said coach Randy Pinkowski. “I've been proud of the kids. When we go three plays and out against a team like East Wake, it's tough for us. But I still feel like there's plenty out there we can work with."
The Comets have one of the best sophomore quarterbacks around in Landen Leiser, who may well be a key ingredient in a bright future.
But the Comet momentum needs to turn soon.
Local kid makes good
Eric Hoy, a 2015 Clayton graduate, hauled in 12 catches for 240 yards for Randolph-Macon in a 49-28 win at Averett on Sept. 12. It was the second highest total for receiving yards in a game in school history and the most ever by a freshman.
Hoy, who had 331 yards receiving and 3 TDs scored through two games, was named to the D3football.com National Team of the Week for the performance. He is one of six freshmen Yellow Jackets playing this season who hail from Johnston County. Tre Frederick (West Johnston) Cole Sakowski (Corinth Holders), Brandon Baucom (West Johnston) and Greg Castle (North Johnston) are the others.
Michael Held, Mike Potter and David Justice contributed.
Week 6: Friday’s Games
7 p.m. starts: Garner (3-2, 0-1) at East Wake (3-2, 1-0); West Johnston (1-4, 0-1) at Southeast Raleigh (2-3, 1-0); Clayton (1-4, 0-1) at Harnett Central (1-4, 0-1); Cleveland (2-3) at South Granville (1-4); Princeton (0-4) at James Kenan (4-0)
7:30 p.m. starts: South Johnston (4-1) at North Johnston (4-1); Corinth Holders (5-0) at Wilson Fike (3-2); Smithfield-Selma (0-5) at Northern Nash (1-4); Fayetteville Christian (0-3) at Wake Christian (4-1)