Wildcats concentrate on defense full speed
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Aug. 10, 2006 - Defensive coordinator Steve Hale pulled aside a Wildcat defensive back during practice Wednesday and had one simple question.

"Why did you stop?" he asked.

Then Hale added, "Don't ever quit. If you make a mistake, make it full speed."

That sums up the Wildcats' defensive philosophy this year - full speed.

Hale, who won a state championship in 2003 as LaMarque's defensive coordinator, brings with him the same philosophy that SSHS head coach Greg Owens had an All-State linebacker for the Wildcats in the mid-80s - get to the ball as soon as you can and make the play.

"The thing we want on defense is speed - quickness and speed," Owens said. "We want guys on that side of the ball that can make plays. Obviously, we need aggressive guys who don't mind hitting and mixing it up and can make tackles and make plays on the ball.

"So far, the kids have done a great job and have been very enthusiastic."

The SSHS coaches are working to re-create the defensive tenacity that the Wildcats were known for in the '90s when Damione Lewis, Kwaesi Palmer, Tyreo Harrison and Caleb Miller were among the headliners who drew Division I college scouts to campus.

From 1990-98, the Wildcats allowed less than 12 points per game, and had four seasons during that span in which they gave up 10 points or less per game.

Compare that to last year, when the Wildcats gave up 373 points in 11 games.

"Throughout the years here, this has been known as a defensive school, and I think we're getting some more of that back," Owens said. "I'm excited about our prospects; of course we haven't gone against anyone yet either. But, we have some kids who are working extremely hard and we're excited about their attitudes and their willingness to get after it."

The Wildcats will base their defense out of a 3-4 alignment with three down linemen, two outside linebackers and two inside linebackers. However, Owens said the defense will be flexible enough to go into a 4-3 when needed.

In the secondary, the Wildcats can use either man-to-man or zone.

"Some of it depends on what the other team is running, whether it's a spread offense or two tight ends or whatever," Owens said. "We're going to mix it up. Front-wise, it's the same thing - we can go 3-4 or we can shift into a split front.

"The way offense is today, you've got to be versatile. Against different folks, we'll have different looks. We'll play a lot of different kids in different situations."

Whatever defensive package is in the game, Owens said fans will see a lot of movement and stunts.

"We move a lot. I don't call them blitzes, but there is a lot of movement and a lot of slanting. We will stunt if we feel like it is an advantage to us and we can keep up with them in the secondary," he related. "If we can rattle their cage a little bit, we'll go get them.

"We're going to be aggressive, and it may look like we're blitzing a bunch, but we're really not. That's just our basic technique."

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