Multiple is the word Neville coach Mickey McCarty used when describing the needs of defensive football in this era of the game. His schedule backs him up in that assertion: the Tigers defense has been forced to defend almost every scheme imaginable, from Grant’s double wing to Tioga’s pass-based spread to the different adaptations of the run-based spread deployed by Ouachita, Maumelle (Ark.), Carroll and others.
The Tigers haven’t seen this yet.
This, in this case, is the West Ouachita running attack that runs in a bevy of ways from option to sprintout draws and multiple adaptations in between. McCarty’s early warning has been something along the lines of: what’s boring on the surface is what the Chiefs beat teams with.
“They will celebrate three-and-a-half yards per play, meaning that’s the game plan and it’s very satisfactory to them to shorten the game up, chew the clock up and move the chains,” McCarty said. “If a big play comes, it just comes, but they’re very patient.
“It’s a unique style that we haven’t seen this exact offensive style this year. It requires you to play with discipline, they run a lot of option out of it. They do a lot of checking at the line of scrimmage. Their kids are coached up well.”
West Ouachita coach Joey Pender entered the season concerned about offensive line play but has been pleased with the position recently, as the Chiefs have played well enough offensively to go 6-2 and appear to be a lock for the 4A playoffs.
“Several sophomores have really stepped up. Some of the seniors we had to change position-wise from defense to offense have gelled pretty well together,” West Ouachita coach Joey Pender said, adding the Chiefs also had to move a tight end into the offensive line.
When tasked to do so, the Neville defense has responded well against teams that have tried to test it with the run. Neville held Grant to 68 rushing yards and held a Ruston offense to 12 points that has gone on to score 49 and 57 points in its last two District 2-5A games.
“Their defensive front is extremely aggressive,” Pender said. “Athletically, they have the whole package. Sometimes you hear about folks and say, ‘Well, they can’t be that good,’ but Neville really is that good.
“Any time you play Neville, it’s a big game. Neville’s as a fine a team as there is in this state.”
The tackle for a loss has played a big part in Neville’s stingy run defense, tallying a total of 40 tackles for a loss for a loss of 124 yards. That defense goes up against a West Ouachita offense that has scored 30 or more points in three of its last four games.
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