So much recognition goes to athletes who shine on the offensive side of the ball – especially when it comes to high school sports.
And while those athletes certainly deserve the credit they receive, it often overshadows the efforts of their teammates on defense who work so diligently to halt drives, scoring streaks and rallies.
This week’s “10 to Comprehend” features just some of the area’s best defensive players, projecting the limelight onto athletes whose play doesn’t go unnoticed on the field but isn’t always highlighted in the press.
•Zane Trace’s success on the gridiron this fall starts with its defensive unit. The Pioneers, at 11-0, have pitched four shutouts and have held opponents under 10 points in nine contests including wins over fellow playoff teams Paint Valley (15-8) and River Valley (34-0). Like any good defense, triumph starts up front and junior defensive end Aidan Place has anchored the front four. Place led the Scioto Valley Conference with 13 sacks and added 58 tackles, five fumble recoveries and an interception to an already impressive resume. In the Pioneers’ win over River Valley, Place was constantly in the backfield and made a tremendous athletic play by coming up with an interception after he tipped a pass at the line. Place’s Pioneers are giving up 7.7 points per contest this season and the play of their 6-foot-3, 210 pound end has much to do with it.
•Yet another defensive stalwart in the SVC is Paint Valley junior Drake Stanforth. After helping his Bearcats go 9-1 during the regular season, Stanforth was named the 2015 SVC Co-Defensive Lineman of the Year. Here’s why: 95 tackles, seven sacks and an interception from the nose-guard position. That’s almost unheard of. Stanforth’s Bearcats have beaten playoff caliber teams including Fisher Catholic (36-6), Williamsburg (24-21) and Newark Catholic (21-20). In every one of those games, Stanforth made an impact.
•Staying in the trenches, Chillicothe’s Isaac Bocook had a monster season for the Cavaliers. The 6-foot-5, 265 pound senior finished with 73 tackles – 15 for a loss – three sacks and a blocked field goal. Couple him with fellow senior Jakob Staggs and you’ve got possibly the best defensive duo in the local area. Staggs led the Cavaliers with 99 tackles – 19 for a loss – to go along with eight sacks, four forced fumbles and a blocked punt. It’s no wonder Chillicothe stayed in so many blockbuster contests this year. When I think about dominating defensive performances in 2015, the Cavaliers’ 19-16 loss to Jackson comes to mind. On the road, Chillicothe forced overtime after falling behind early and there were no two bigger reasons for the comeback than the defensive clinic put on by Bocook and Staggs.
•After sharing the 2015 SVC Co-Defensive Lineman of the Year with Stanforth, Piketon’s Matt Smith will undoubtedly be missed in a Redstreaks’ uniform. The senior linebacker had an outstanding career in Piketon with a total of 298 tackles, four fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles. Within the past three years, Smith placed first (2015), second (2014) and third (2013) in tackles in the SVC with 96, 114 and 88, respectively. After his 96 in ‘15, the closest Redstreak to him had 46.
•The Southeastern Panthers finished just 2-8 this season, which is why you may be unfamiliar with Panthers’ senior Kent Dunn. In his four years with Southeastern, the Panthers are just 7-33 including an 0-10 finish just one year ago. However, Dunn himself has been a constant strong point on the roster. In 2014, Dunn logged 71 tackles from a defensive back position. This year, he followed that up by recording 71 more alongside two interceptions, 12 pass breakups and a defensive score. Dunn is also the only Southeastern player to earn first team all-conference honors in both of the last two seasons.
•Waverly was simmering coming out of the gates in 2015 but a mid-season rut cooled the Tigers’ jets. However, nothing slowed down junior corner back Cade Marquez. In 10 games, Marquez picked off an area-high eight passes while also registering 30.5 tackles – second on Waverly’s squad. As a team, the Tigers had just nine interceptions all season long, further proving Marquez’s worth. Oh yeah, Marquez also shined in the passing game by hauling in 31 balls for 477 yards and five touchdowns but that’s another topic of discussion for another column down the road.
•Switching from the gridiron to the volleyball court, one of the most solid underrated defensive players in our coverage area has to be Adena’s Rachael Foster. The Warriors’ only senior in 2015 was constantly sacrificing every inch of her body to make sure the ball didn’t hit the floor. Foster finished the year with 146 total digs or 2.7 per set. After watching her play many times, I’d take 10 Rachael Fosters on my team any day. If you want heart, hustle and intensity, she’s the perfect choice.
•Huntington’s Alisha Long could most certainly also be thrown into the underrated category. With so much attention to Rikki Magill and Dylana Gragg, Long could easily be lost in the fold. However, I can’t let that happen. The Huntsmen made their first district final appearance since 2013 and Long was a big part of that tournament run. In 79 sets, the junior had 254 digs – 3.2 per set – including a career high 26 in a five set win over Zane Trace on Oct. 1. Long will be back next season after the Huntsmen lose six seniors. Look for her to be a leader on the team.
•Staying in the volleyball scene, Unioto freshman Amanada McGlone – you read that right, freshman – made a gigantic impact at the net for the Shermans this year. At 5-foot-11 with room to grow, McGlone had 180 kills and 57 blocks in 87 sets. However, she was never better than her 14 kill, three-block performance at Adena Oct. 6. The Tanks bring back 11 of 13 roster members next season. In total, those 11 had 93 total blocks – meaning McGlone’s 57 counted as 62 percent.
•Senior Spotlight: I have covered a lot of volleyball games and have never seen a more dominating performance than the one Westfall’s Hannah Phillips put on against Alexander last week. She did it everywhere; from the serving line, at the net, from the setter position and the back row. After it was all said and done, the Mustangs were in the Elite Eight thanks to Phillips’ 21 kills, 11 aces, nine assists and 11 digs. She also notched her 1,000th career kill in the match. After the action, I got the chance to talk with her. Phillips simply ‘gets it.’ The charisma, personality and confidence is all there. She’s going to be a steal for whatever college she decides to attend. The best of luck to her.
To join the weekly discussion, use the hashtag #10toComprehend on Twitter or send an email to email@example.com. Then to let your voice be heard, make sure to vote in the Gazette’s Second Fall Sports Awards, running from Nov. 20 until Nov. 24. All nominees will be announced during the week before.
•Football, Week 11
*Bold lettering denotes season is over
Zane Trace (11-0), Paint Valley (10-1), Chillicothe (7-4), Adena (6-4), Waverly (5-5), Unioto (5-5), Piketon (4-6), Southeastern (2-8), Westfall (2-8), Huntington (1-9)
•Volleyball (Final Rankings of 2015)
Adena (23-3), Westfall (17-10), Huntington (19-6), Unioto (21-4), Zane Trace (15-10), Chillicothe (16-8), Piketon (12-12), Waverly (16-7), Southeastern (9-14), Paint Valley (5-16)