The Crowley Gents play defense, too.
Much of the attention garnered by the team’s undefeated season has focused on the Gents’ offensive firepower, led by quarterback Pate Broussard and running back Ty’Von Griffin. As deserving as that duo is for helping the Gents average an impressive 41 points per game, the team’s defense deserves some recognition as well.
Heading into Friday’s home Class 4A quarterfinal game against No. 10 Franklinton (9-3), No. 2 Crowley (12-0) is surrendering an average of 17 points per game. That average drops down to 14 once you remove the anomaly that was the 50-49 win at Cecilia in Week 3.
“We are very fortunate that this is a seasoned group,” Crowley defensive coordinator Jeptha Wall said. “This group has gotten a lot of playing time over the past two years. That allowed us to expand on the basic stuff we are doing and add a few extra wrinkles. That’s only happened because those kids have all that knowledge.”
The Gents rotate 17 players on defense, with a dozen of them earning valuable experience last season. That allows Crowley to seemingly always have fresh players on the field, but that also means that limits the amount of plays a Gents defender gets throughout a game.
Three-year starter, and senior, Edward Yokum said he and his teammates could care less about the latter.
“We play for each other,” Yokum said. “We don’t play to be selfish. Each one of us knows that we aren’t going to make all the plays, so we just play to help our team win games.”
That unselfishness gives Crowley the versatility of playing multiple schemes. The Gents base defense is an old school 50 scheme (five down linemen) but the team has the capability of morphing into a 3-4, 4-2-5 or even 4-3 scheme.
“These kids know multiple positions too,” Wall said. “So its not like we are always taking one person out and putting the next guy in. We may shuffle another safety in or a safety may go play corner or a corner may go play linebacker. We move them all around, and they know all the spots.”
All of that responsibility means that sometimes practice is longer than expected, but it has also instilled confidence into the Gents, regardless of who the opponent may be.
“Anything we put our minds to we can do on defense,” Yokum said. “Any offense they come out with it we can adjust to it.”
Wall is quick to praise his defense’s unsung heroes, the Gents trio of starting down lineman Desmond Harmon, Jackson Hetzler and Tyrone Andrus who have combined for 124 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss and five sacks.
The play of those three allows linebacker-defensive end Yokum (57 tackles, two sacks) to make plays sideline to sideline, while senior cornerbacks Mikal Hebert (team-high four interceptions) and Jacqo Price (team-high 11 pass deflections) disrupt the opponent’s passing attack.
In last week’s 42-35 victory over Livonia though, the Crowley defense had its hands full with the combination of Wildcats running back Patrick Queen and quarterback Cee Jay Powell who combined for four rushing touchdowns.
This week they face a team led by quarterback Tahj Magee and running back Azende Magee, who combined for 1,875 yards and 20 rushing touchdowns during the regular season.
“We struggled to contain that quarterback from Livonia, and we are going to see a similar situation with a good running back-quarterback exchange this week,” Wall said. “We will need to have our personnel make adjustments.”
Despite that challenge, the Gents won’t allow themselves to be intimidated, especially with a semifinal berth on the line.
“Our mindset is that we think that no other team can do anything,” Yokum said. “Were not scared of nobody. I know we don’t have the size, but we got the heart.”