PA Defense: Hey! We can play too!
November 1, 2011
When an offense is averaging over 40 points per game, it's easy to see how it's defense can get lost in the fold.
But taking a look at the numbers can go a long way to showing fans just how important Pulaski Academy's defense has been to its success this season.
While the potency of a Fredi Knighten-led offense that averages 49.2 points per game and the onside kick-happy special teams have garnered national attention, the defense has quietly gone about its business, holding opponents to 21.5 points per game, though a majority of that coming after the games have been in hand.
"I was kind of looking at it last night," Bruins' coach Kevin Kelley said. "And I forget exactly what (the number) was, something like 48 points our first group has given up... But definitely the numbers are deceptive because we play young guys a lot of the time and we take our starters out before the other teams take their starters out."
The Bruins possess a perfect storm of youth and experience within the unit (six seniors and five underclassmen), led in the defensive backfield by senior safeties Jeremy Brady — a Tulsa commitment — and college prospect Aum'Arie Wallace and in the middle by sophomore linebacker Tyler Colquitt, who started every game as a freshman.
Recently, the defense's prowess has been on display, with back-to-back first half shutouts of Malvern (41-0) and Pulaski Robinson (35-0). Both teams got their points — 16 each — after halftime, when the defensive starters were pulled.
Performances like that have given some much-wanted love to the other side of the ball.
"Before this year, it was our defense flying under the radar," Wallace said after the team's win over Malvern. "And now we're getting some publicity, it's really nice. It (motivates us), and we know that we can do it. And we're making a statement (that) as an offense school, the defense is here too."
And while they haven't needed it yet this season — the Bruins closest contest was a 38-28 victory at Lake Hamilton — Kelley believes his defense also serves as a safety net, should the offense slip up early and not recover.
"I mean obviously the important thing is they give us a fallback plan," Kelley said. "When the defense is good, the offense doesn't have to get going (fast). They can afford to make some mistakes and count on the defense to bail them out takes and take some of the pressure off."
Even if the pressure is on this season. With the Bruins tabbed by many as the overwhelming favorite to win Class 4A, now the spotlight will be on all facets of Pulaski Academy's program. It's a similar situation to last season, when they came up short in a 61-40 loss to Shiloh Christian in the 4A state title game.
Though despite giving up a ton of points to the Saints, you won't hear Kelley blame the defense. In fact, it's the exact opposite.
"I think our defense was underrated last year," Kelley said. "We're definitely better this season, last year we just ran into a buzz-saw against Shiloh. Of course, sometimes we put them up in bad situations last year (in the state title game)."
But they'll take that experience, which has added to Pulaski Academy's already growing amount of games over the past two seasons.
What does that mean? Kelley explains that with the 15 games his team played last season, along with the possibility of a 15 games season in 2011, the 30 combined games equals three full seasons. That is similar to having a fifth-year senior in college, getting all the experience that unit needs. It's a term Kelley doesn't take for granted.
"People talk about experience, but they undervalue how much that's worth," Kelley said. "With all those guys starting 15 games last year, that's a season-and-a-half coming back this year."