DUTCHTOWN — Dutchtown’s defensive backfield cycled through alignments Wednesday afternoon, one voice more audible than anyone on the practice field. Strong safety Coney Durr pointed and yelled calls as other teammates moved across the formation at his command.
Just adjacent was Ricky Thomas, bent over quietly with arms at his side, waiting for the slap of the ball that signaled the beginning of drill and his task to keep cover on the scout team receiver.
“Always kind of been a talkative guy,” Durr saidd. “Ricky’s more of a quiet guy. He’s a guy you don’t have to really tell him what to do. He knows what he has to do. I’ve been that guy that always talks a lot.”
Safeties Justin Reid and Alonzo Carrington departed to Stanford and Minnesota, respectively, leaving Durr and Thomas as the leaders in Dutchtown’s defensive backfield — just as their predecessors foresaw.
“It’s y’all’s time now,” Reid and Carrington told the rising seniors last season.
“They prepped us up, worked with us and even showed us the ropes of being a leader,” Thomas added.
Each now starting for the third straight year, Durr and Thomas haven’t caught any coaches or opposition by surprise. Their talent and versatility has always been unquestioned — Durr so much so that Griffins coach Benny Saia slid him to strong safety after two yeas at cornerback.
It’s been the leadership that’s evolved, according to Saia, who said the roles have come intuitively to lead a defense that’s surrendered 14 or fewer points in five of their past six games and eight or fewer in two of their past three.
“Besides being great athletes, (they provide) great leadership,” Saia said. “They were starters last year, they were the corners, and the other two guys (Carrington and Reid) were the safeties. They were very valuable last year, so it wasn’t like a new role for them. Seniors just kind of take that leadership role.”
Their leadership will be crucial in Friday’s district showdown with a torrid Catholic High offense at Olympia Stadium that’s scored 97 points in its past two games during a six-game winning streak.
Showcasing more balanced production between LSU target Clyde Edwards-Helaire out of the backfield and quarterback Ian Brian’s ability to spread the ball to his many receivers, the Bears offense could provide the Griffins their most difficult test to date.
Add to that Catholic’s trademark reliance on being a disciplined group that thrives on fundamentals, and any defensive lapse could prove costly in Dutchtown’s pursuit to keep an unblemished district record.
“Any coverage busts, mistake, wrong fit in the gap, will cost us a touchdown,” Durr said. “We have to be on our ‘Ps and Qs’ and execute our gameplan. It starts with the whole team, from the D-line to the secondary to the linebackers.”
Enter the leaders.
“I take a lot of pride because to be a leader is the best because it’s not going to be just anybody being a leader for this Dutchtown defense,” Thomas said. “(Catholic) came out on top last year. We got to get ’em back.”