The opening week of high school football is always full of questions. When the season begins to play out we get the answers. As Smyrna opens defense of their Region 6 title fans are hoping to fill in some of the blanks, especially on one side of the ball.
That age-old saying offense sells tickets and defense wins championships is absolutely true when it comes to football at any level. Bulldog head coach Matt Williams has talent on both sides of the football, but it may be those cantankerous canines on the defensive unit that can help lead Smyrna back to the promised land and a high playoff seed.
“I certainly think our defense can be the strength of this team”, says the veteran Smyrna coach. “We have a lot of talented kids on that side of the football and if they do what they are supposed to do I think they have a chance to be dominant. Of course, the key is getting lined up right and doing what they are supposed to do.”
A unit that is senior-dominated and features a strong combination of size and speed makes for optimism in Bulldog country. It all starts on the defensive front with the fearsome foursome of seniors Jeremiah Bailey, Elias Gardner, B.J. Benthall, and junior Jayden Marable. This group of game-changers might be as good as any in the state as a unit.
“I think we have a group up front that can control the line of scrimmage”, says Williams. “That is where it all starts. Our seniors all have varsity experience and can shed blocks and make plays. Marable is a big kid that can run and that means he has a chance to be very disruptive.”
Behind that front four is a speedy group of playmakers that also features size. Linebackers Larry Lockett and Daniel LaQuart are seniors that Williams is counting on in the tackle tallying category. Defensive backs K.J. Whitney and Jaiden Jones are tall cornerbacks, which is a major plus for any defense.
“The guys behind our defensive line gives us a lot of confidence”, says Williams, who has coached Smyrna to eleven TSSAA playoff appearances since taking over in 2008. “LaQuart and Lockett know how to make plays and our defensive secondary is a very solid unit.”
Smyrna will open their season at local rival Stewarts Creek on August 20. This will be the first opportunity for Williams to let his defensive Dogs out. The kickoff is slated for 7 pm.
“If we can stay healthy this group has the ability to do some really good things”, says Williams. “We are excited to get things going with a rivalry game right out of the gates.”