Wildcats learn from past in their defense
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

August 12, 2004 - The Sulphur Springs Wildcats are harking back to their glory days with the defensive scheme they will use this season.

With names like Damione Lewis, Kwaesi Palmer, Tyreo Harrison and Caleb Miller heading the defensive pedigree in the 1990s, the SSHS coaching staff is going back to the defense that took the Wildcats to the state quarterfinals for three consecutive years in the mid-90s.

"We're going back to a 4-2-5, more of a split defense," SSHS head coach Brad Turner said. "I think the kids are excited about it because some of their brothers and uncles played in this defense and they know the positions.

"Keenan (Clayton) is playing the same position that Caleb Miller played, and he was a great defensive player. So, they're excited about that. (Keidric) Duffey's playing what Kwaesi Palmer played, so they can relate to some of those great players."

There are three former Wildcats playing in the NFL (Lewis, Harrison and Miller), and Palmer was destined to be there before severe knee injuries the first practice of his freshman season at Florida State ended his career. They all got there while playing in this defense under coaches James Cameron and Chuck King, which uses four down linemen, two middle linebackers and five defensive backs/outside linebackers.

The Wildcats are making the change this fall with the departure of former defensive coordinator Scott Wells to Abilene Cooper, and the promotion of Dean Lasseter and Rodney Barthelemess as co-defensive coordinators.

"We were primarily a 3-4 defense when Coach Wells was here, and we went through spring training doing that, and then with all the events that came about on the coaching staff, we changed it," Turner said. "Coach Lasseter is familiar with this defense. We ran it at Lone Oak when he was my coordinator, and he was a part of it here under Coach Cameron, and Coach Barthelemess was a part of that defense under Coach Cameron as well."

Of course, a lot of defenses can excel with that kind of exceptional talent. Turner said the defense allows the athletes to use their abilities to make plays. With Oklahoma-bound Clayton at safety, plus linebacker Duffey and defensive end Tremayne Jones getting looks from upper-level colleges, it seems like a good fit.

"It's a good defense when you have the players, but it's new," Turner said. "So, the learning has got to be sped up for them. Offensively, after tomorrow, we'll have everything on that we did the entire spring. But, the defense is still trying to get it all in.

"They're doing a good job, and they're excited about it, but we've just got to learn how to do and what to do because we've been working the other so long, and we did it all spring. We've just got to get there."

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