Defense leads streaking Seahawks

Published 7:13 pm Wednesday, November 30, 2016

CHOCOWINITY — It’s been six weeks and two days since Southside last lost a football game. The Seahawks came up short, 36-30, in an odd Tuesday meeting with 1-A Coastal Plains Conference foe Jones Senior.

While the offense has scored at least 58 points in three of Southside’s four straight wins since then, it’s been the defense that has led the charge. It pitched two shutouts and has conceded just three touchdowns in the four-game winning streak.

It’s strikingly similar to the way the Seahawks were playing this time last year. The offense was loaded with the likes of Lawrence Brown, Matt Baxter and Johnny Sullivan, among others, but the defense was where the team drew a lot of its momentum.

They forced key turnovers in a 40-36 second-round win over Northampton County. A week later, the defense faced adversity after giving up two touchdowns before the offense got a snap off, but blanked North Edgecombe in the second half of a 36-24 win.

Even in the regional-championship loss, Southside’s defense held a high-powered Plymouth offense to just 17 points.

They’re doing a lot of the same things this time around. Southside endured a defensive standoff with South Creek in an 8-0 first-round win. Another stout performance in the second round allowed KIPP Pride to score only once in a 60-8 obliteration.

“It was stressful,” linebacker and team captain Hunter Sparks said of the South Creek game. “They would march down the field and I’d tell the boys that we’ve got to step up.”

Head coach Jeff Carrow and the Seahawks entered the season knowing they’d have to lean on the defense a bit more, but they’ve been playing at another level over the last few weeks. Carrow said a lot of it starts with the top-notch staff he’s assembled.

“We have an outstanding coaching staff here,” Carrow said. “Offensively, defensively, our coaches get along. We work well together. We push each other. Sometimes at practice it’s a little bit more competitive between the coaches than the players. We breed competition and that includes our coaches.

“I can’t say enough about how blessed we are and how blessed I am to have an outstanding coaching staff. It really helps these kids because not every kid relates to every coach.”

A lot of the players have stepped up to help the entire unit perform well, too. Sparks is consistently a team leader in tackles, and junior defensive backs Demetrius Ebron and Kyle Hill have effectively shut down aerial offenses.

“We’re just working hard in practice and coming closer as a team,” Sparks said. “Coach told us that two weeks ago, the grinding season started, and that’s what we’ve been doing. … The defense is just coming together to hold it down.”

Ebron added, “We look at how they run their offense. I look at the quarterback and how he reads defenses — how he looks around and if he looks that way if he’s going to throw that way.”

Damion Bond is ready to swarm the KIPP Pride offense. Bond, a defensive end, has been part of a much-improved Southside defensive line.

Damion Bond is ready to swarm the KIPP Pride offense. Bond, a defensive end, has been part of a much-improved Southside defensive line.

Carrow knew what he had with the linebackers and the secondary, but the defensive line has been by and far the most improved group this season.

“I think our defensive line has stepped up lately. We knew our linebackers and secondary were going to be pretty solid, but our line has stepped up,” he said, noting the emergence of Seahawks like Noah Trogdan. Both got in the backfield often against KIPP Pride, combining for 4.5 tackled for loss.

“(Leadership) has been by committee,” Carrow continued. “We’ve got multiple guys we rotate in. Josh Keyes plays a little defensive end. Damion Bond switches in and out. They’re both senior guys.

“Teddy Minor, Scott Ringlien rotate. Noah Trogdon has been a huge surprise to us this year. He came out of nowhere and came ready to play ball his senior year. He’s hard-fought, may be a little undersized, but makes up with it with a little bit of ‘stink’ in him, we like to say on defense. He gets after it. … Quinton Vick has also stepped up as a defensive end for us. He’s a junior that we were hoping was going to step up.”

Southside hopes to continue its string of excellent defensive showings on Friday when it hosts Northampton County in the third round of the playoffs. The two faced off in the second round last season.