The defense for the Lakewood Leopards has played on another level all season, notching eight shutouts over the course of 12 games and using its experience to become one of the driving forces behind the Leopards 10-2 record.
“We knew we had some experience coming back,” said defensive coordinator Telfair Simpson. “Our front four and linebackers play hard — they’re explosive, they play together and, best of all, they love it.”
The defensive unit includes Jahdon Smith, Shemar Tucker, Jawaun Johnson, Jameek Johnson, Tristan Holmes, Taureon Owens, Luke Brewer, Kristopher Teasdale, Dylan Ivey, Bryce Tanner, Jaylen Torres, Andre Rich and Jaylin Avery.
If the Leopards had a flaw in their defense coming into the season, it would’ve been in the inexperience of their secondary and the lack of depth they had outside of the starting 11. That didn’t last long, as the defensive backs started coming into their own after a few games and players started to develop.
“We had some inexperience in our secondary, it took them a few games but they really got it going now,” said Simpson. “Our first 11 can really play, but we knew we were lacking in our depth a little bit. That has changed a lot as we’ve had some guys emerge since the start of the season.”
The defense ultimately had 12 interceptions and recovered 10 fumbles, while amassing 21 total sacks for 148 yards lost.
The secret to such a powerful defensive showing from the Leopards is something very simple — a little incentive of sweet goodness.
“The secret to our success is candy. We tell the guys that ever time they pitch a shutout they get some candy and I thinks it’s worked out pretty good so far,” said Simpson jokingly.
The coaching staff for Lakewood has had a hand in such and outstanding year. Led by Simpson, Jake Davidson and Larry Bass, a group that’s been doing this for a long time, they have really got the group doing something special.
“I love this coaching staff,” said Simpson. “They do a great job and honestly I couldn’t ask for a better staff. We’ve been together for a long time, we work pretty good together and they love it just as much as I and the players do.”
“Our offense is just as good which helps us out too,” the defensive coordinator continued. “We can play extremely aggressive because we know that even if we mess up our offense can score a lot of points.”
“This a great group of guys we’ve got this year,” Simpson continued. “They’ve been a pleasure to coach and their eight shutouts are proof of how well they play together. If we continue to play like this and execute like we’ve been doing well hopefully reach one of our goal and that’s to be playing after Thanksgiving.”
They have a chance to make it to games after Thanksgiving when they travel three hours away Friday to face East Carteret in the second round of the playoffs.
Reach Michael Hardison at email@example.com. Follow us onFacebook and Twitter @SampsonInd.