3-Game Win Streak
Defense doing the job for Trinity
by Chris Goltermann
What do tennis balls have to do with Trinity Christian's 3-1 start to the 2013 football season? Apparently a lot.
On a typical practice afternoon you may see the Lions defense going through drills by diving for yellow, fuzzy balls rather than the familiar oblong ones. Each player takes a turn through a line as coordinator J.P. Weaver bounces tennis balls in their direction to get a hand on as they charge toward him.
While it may seem an unorthodox way of preparing for an opponent, such techniques have factored in three consecutive victories for Trinity heading into Friday's home game with Piedmont Academy (0-4-1) in the Lions second straight contest against an opponent from GISA Region 4-AA.
A week after posting six takeaways in a 38-7 win over Dominion Christian, Trinity's defense had three interceptions to go with a fumble recovery and a safety that netted nine of its 23 points in a 23-15 victory over Flint River.
'I'm proud of the way we continue to fight and continue to scrap,' said Lions head coach Chris Hanson of a comeback win over the Wildcats, who converted an early punt block into points to help take a 9-6 lead into halftime. 'I think they understand now that each player has a role and if you stay patient and play for the guy next to you good things are going to happen. We battled some adversity, but the guys stayed focused and stuck to the plan.'
A veteran Flint River lineup that experienced much the same result in a previous meeting in 2012, rallying back after halftime to beat the Lions, was held to 153 yards of offense. Trinity lineman Christian Stearley returned a fumbled snap from midfield to get the Lions on the scoreboard in a 9-0 deficit before halftime and Wyatt Martinez's fumble recovery kept Flint River's offense in check in the third quarter as Trinity responded with 21 unanswered points thanks to a pair of touchdown passes from Daniel Shoates to receivers Christian Downs and Glen Whisby.
While the Lions have been able to come up with big plays on offense, maybe none more impressive last week than Downs' leaping touchdown grab late in the third quarter that gave Trinity the lead for good, a constant in the three consecutive wins has been the steady play of a defensive unit that has experienced changes in the roster due to both graduation and early-season injuries.
'J.P. brings a lot of passion and the kids feed off that passion,' Hanson said. 'Defense is a part of the three-headed monster. As long as we do our job in all three phases, it's only going to get better.'
The bulk of this year's defensive unit has now been in the current scheme at Trinity for two seasons, allowing the Trinity staff more flexibility with making changes. A nucleus of 15 regulars led by linebackers Diego Henriquez (34 tackles) and Gavin Smith (24) also includes four newcomers that have combined for 18 turnovers over the past three games.
Seven of Trinity's eight interceptions have come in the team's last two wins over Dominion and Flint River, with six defenders contributing at least one pick.
Five have at least one sack and five more at least one forced fumble.
'We're fortunate that guys have been able to step in other roles and fit to our defensive scheme,' said Weaver.
Piedmont is searching for its first win of the season two years after capping off 26 unanswered victories and back-toback Class AA state championships under head coach Rhett Farmer, now in his fifth season at the school. Last year's 5-6 record snapped a string of seven winning seasons. Juniors Hunter Knox (6-0, 160) at quarterback and Gaven Edge (6-2, 190) at running back lead the Cougars' triple-option.
'We know Coach Farmer is going to have them ready to play. They want to establish the run early. He's got a good quarterback, a big line and a good running back,' Hanson said. 'We've got to be ready to step up to the challenge.'
Trinity wants to avoid a possible letdown heading into an off week while looking to benefit from a four-game homestand that began with last Friday's first on campus varsity football contest.
'There's a lot of stuff we need to work on. We're still making adjustments and our staff's done a great job,' said Hanson, adding of last week's home opener, 'It was a great experience. Flint River came ready to play and to be able to go out and get that win was special.'