ZACHARY — Put Zachary outside linebacker Ty’Wan Beardon in a confined space. He’s more instinctual now in his third year as a Broncos starter, so he won’t abandon his gap assignment, but if the opportunity arises, he’ll exercise the luxury of laying a crushing hit.
The aggression with which he approaches the ball carrier is vicious, a controlled commotion customarily resulting in what the Broncos coaching staff terms a “big hit.” Seventeen big hits have been registered by the Broncos defense. Beardon has 11 of them.
“He likes to go for the kill shot a lot,” defensive coach Johnny Nagle said. “When he’s in a confined area, he’s really good at it. He’s probably the most explosive player we’ve got on defense.”
Nagle, a former LSU defensive back under Charles McClendon, coaches the Broncos rovers. He’s seen Beardon’s three-year maturation culminate with a trip to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, where the school seeks its first 5A football state title.
Beardon always has had good hips, which Nagle said are key to rolling into hits. Both Nagle and Zachary head coach David Brewerton recalled the early days, when Beardon ran around almost aimlessly, searching for the big hit instead of adhering to schemes.
“Now,” Beardon said, “I tackle way better. Way better. My coverage is better too. If I don’t do my job right, other players don’t do their jobs right. If I’ve got to fill a gap, I fill my gap. If I have to take on a block on my inside shoulder, I’ll do that. And if I have to drop into coverage, I’ll drop into coverage.”
A sprinter in the offseason, Beardon suffered a severely pulled hamstring while running a 200-meter dash this spring. He finished the race, but the injury almost forced Brewerton to hold him out of the team’s jamboree and season-opener.
That was not necessary, and Brewerton’s salty defense began the season with its catalyst. Nagle now notices practices mold around Beardon’s effort. When he’s having a good day, the entire defense is playing well. A bad day sometimes means the entire defense is off.
“He’s a violent football player,” Brewerton said. “And that’s what I want to see out of our defense. He plays with a high motor and plays fast. That’s what we want our defensive guys to do, and they feed off of that, no question.”
Beardon leads the Broncos with 73 tackles, nine more than his closest teammate. His four forced fumbles also top the team, none bigger than in Zachary’s 4-5A opener against Scotlandville.
With Zachary clinging to a 49-46 lead late in the fourth quarter, Beardon penetrated a confined, run-heavy set from the Zachary 2-yard-line, forcing Hornets running back Reggie Cleveland to fumble away the potentially game-winning score with 29 seconds left.
So overcome with emotion, Beardon cried. It was a first for him on the football field. Tears streamed again eight weeks later watching the final seconds tick away from Zachary’s 41-27 semifinal win over Parkway.
“Junior year, I said ‘We’ve got to work,’” Beardon said. “After we lost in the semifinals, I knew we had to work to get there. And we started working. We’re here now.”