Football

Defense fueling dominant start for Portland St. Patrick

Sam Hodge, left, and Jerrid Pline have made contributions for a St. Patrick defense that has allowed just six points through four games this fall.

Sam Hodge, left, and Jerrid Pline have made contributions for a St. Patrick defense that has allowed just six points through four games this fall.

Sam Hodge takes it personal.

It doesn’t sit well for the senior defensive back each time an opponent scores against his Portland St. Patrick football team.

Fortunately for Hodge, there hasn’t been much to be disappointed about so far this season.

Hodge and the Shamrocks (4-0) have thrived on defense and posted three shutouts while allowing just six points during the first half of the season. Those six points allowed, which came in a Week 2 victory over St. Joseph Michigan Lutheran, are the fewest given up by an 8-man football program in the state so far this fall.

“I don’t like losing, and I don’t like giving up points,” said Hodge, who has a team-leading 37 tackles. “I take that personally when a guy scores on us and I hope my teammates do as well. It’s been a big focus for us — the communication, knowing our responsibilities. It’s definitely very important.

“We definitely put a lot of focus on defense this year because last year we scored enough points to win games, but we gave up too many points.”

St. Patrick expected to be better on defense this fall with seven starters back from last year’s 6-4 team that allowed 27.2 points per game. But the early success and having outscored opponents 168-6 entering this week’s contest against Burr Oak has exceeded their expectations.

Shamrock coach Pat Russman believes each of his players taking care of their individual job has been the root of the defensive success.

“We’re really stressing the individual responsibilities within the defense so that they can play well as a unit,” Russman said. “They’ve all played their roles really well. I definitely appreciate where we’re at defensively. It’s an area we needed to be better at this year with this group of kids, and they’ve answered the challenge so far.”

St. Patrick players have gained confidence with the early success, but senior quarterback/defensive back Jerrid Pline said there is a hunger for more as the Shamrocks try to win a second Central Michigan 8-man Conference title in three seasons.

“We like the success we are having, but we’re hungry for more and keeping our head up and being smart,” Pline said.

“We’re definitely staying focused, we”re staying hungry and are motivated as ever. I think that start was a great thing for us, and we’re looking forward to keep playing outstanding defense throughout the season.”

Contact Brian Calloway at bcalloway@lsj.com. Follow him on Twitter @brian_calloway.

Sam Hodge

Sam Hodge

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