Parkview Baptist is best known for having a group of large, bruising linemen who set the pace on offense and defense.
Three players who weigh less than 180 pounds might be just as influential when the defending Class 3A state champion Eagles (9-3), seeded 11th, travel to play No. 2 St. Charles Catholic (13-0) in a semifinal at 7 p.m. Friday in LaPlace.
Rovers Dylan Philippe, Cole Wilson and Tee Sparrow play key roles in Parkview’s 3-3-5 defense. A cross between a linebacker and a safety, a rover has to do more than cover receivers.
“In our system, a rover is definitely a hybrid,” PBS defensive coordinator Jay Mayet said. “It’s part linebacker and part safety, and it’s not easy to play. It was a surprise to me how well they came together.
“We preach to them all the time that defense is nothing more than knowing where your help is. That’s why you have to know not only your position, but the position the other guys are playing too.”
Mayet’s surprise had more to do with injuries than the abilities of the three players.
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Wilson was forced to start four games at quarterback because of an injury to Brennan Bozeman and didn’t practice on defense.
Wilson, a Nicholls State baseball signee, was the lone starter returning to the same secondary position. Sparrow (5-8, 170), a sophomore, moved into a starting role when another preseason injury, this one to fullback Brandon Johnson, prompted PBS to move Conner Hodgeson to fullback.
Phillippe (6-0, 170) is a senior who moved from cornerback to rover or free safety. He was injured in the season opener against 5A semifinalist Mandeville, forcing Sparrow into an even bigger role.
“I had to be more aggressive,” Sparrow said. “Last year I was a little passive.
“You have to be able to get off blocks and make good run-pass reads. That was the toughest part to learn. Cole and Dylan helped me with that.”
Wilson didn’t play defense until the fourth game, when Bozeman returned. He was glad to get back to his rover role, which he likens to a strong safety role. Playing four Class 5A teams early in the season was a plus for the Eagles, Wilson said.
“I don’t think we played wide receivers that fast ever, and that helped us get better,” Wilson said about playing the Class 5A schools. “It humbled us a little bit and made us hungrier.”
The new role, coupled with the injury, meant it took a little longer for Phillippe to find a comfort zone.
“It’s a lot different on run support because you have more responsibilities,” Phillippe said. “The way you perceive the field is a lot different than it is when you play corner. I thought I had it down from practices, but when we got into a game, I found out the pace was a lot faster. There’s more to account for.”
After Parkview won its second 3A title in four years last fall, Mayet figured the secondary would a question mark. Nose guard Tom Bove, the Class 3A and All-Metro MVP a year ago, and linebacker Brody Burkhalter were back to set the pace in those areas.
The play of Wilson, Phillippe and Sparrow answered any questions Mayet had.
“They’ve taken a leadership role,” Mayet said. “This is probably the most athletic secondary we’ve had since I’ve been here. Those guys give us the ability to do more. And the more your secondary can do, the better off you are.”