Photos by Derrick Mahone / Jonesboro's Taurean Ferguson (from left), Lovejoy's Nathaniel Norwood and Riverdale's Troy Wyche have emerged as leaders on the defense of their respective teams.
It's an old coaches’ cliché, but it has proven to be true — defense wins championships.
The calling card for the three Clayton County state playoff teams is that they all have solid defenses. Jonesboro, Lovejoy and Riverdale will all be relying on their defenses to carry them through their respective playoff brackets.
Clayton News Daily staff writers Derrick Mahone and Gabriel Stovall take a look at what makes the defenses of the county’s three playoff teams so good.
Defensive coordinator: Tim Floyd
Leaders: MLB Quinton Edwards and S Patrick Petty have taken ownership of the Cardinals’ defense by their work in the film room and attention to detail which allows them to pick up things quickly and help get others lined up properly.
Why it works: Because of Jonesboro’s lockdown corners, Taurean Ferguson and Cameron Sutton, the front seven has time to apply pressure to opposing quarterbacks and commit more attention to stopping the run. The way defensive coordinator and head coach Tim Floyd has rigged it, many of the opportunities for big plays and big hits get funneled toward Edwards and Petty’s positions. Jonesboro’s speed and athleticism give the Cardinals the luxury of staying in their base defense, even against offenses that try to spread them out.
Coach Floyd says: “It helps us that our guys have really bought into the system and really understand that anyone who takes care of their responsibilities can make plays in this defense.”
Scheme: 50 front
Defensive coordinator: Kevin Jones
Leader: Whether you’re talking to head coach Al Hughes or defensive coordinator Kevin Jones, it’ll be senior nose tackle Nathaniel Norwood’s name that keeps coming up. Jones called Norwood the “center of our defensive core,” because of the way he commands double teams that free things up for others to make plays.
Why it works: It’s all about the pressure that the Wildcats apply to opposing offenses. There is no read and react element involved in this scheme. Forty-eight minutes of attacking style defense designed to keep Lovejoy’s five down linemen and two linebackers in the other team’s backfield all night long.
Coach Jones says: “Whatever you’re going to do on offense against us, you’re going to have to do it in two seconds or less or else you’ll be hit for a loss or a sack. Our goal is nothing more than four yards a play.”
Scheme: Multiple 3-4/4-4
Defensive coordinator: Olten Downs
Leader: Senior linebacker Troy Wyche. It all starts with the talented linebacker, who has received several Div. I offers. However, he is not the only one that Downs points to at spearheading the defensive effort. Defensive end Tykeem Bethea, linebacker Chinedu Okonya and defensive back Isa Muhammad have all given the Raiders a solid effort.
Why it works: The big key is the players now understand and have accepted their role on the defensive unit. Prior to becoming the Raiders coach, Downs was a successful defensive coordinator at powerhouse Carver High in Columbus. He has brought much of that philosophy that made Carver a state contender with him to Riverdale. The Raiders have several athletes on the defensive side of the ball, which has helped in them making plays.
Coach Downs says: “Playing good defense is the most important thing in the playoffs. You have to be able to stop people and force some turnovers. If teams can’t score on you, then you will be hard to beat.”