No. 22 Oakland (Tenn.) having historic season defensively

Oakland is currently ranked No. 24 in the nation in the USA Today Super 25.

Oakland has been stingy on defense (Photo: Helen Comer, Daily News Journal)

The defense for No. 22 Oakland (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) isn’t quite up to the standards of the 1942-49 Shelbyville Bedford County Training football team, which tossed 52 consecutive shutouts.

But as far as modern-day teams go, Oakland’s 2016 defense is right up there with some of the best.

That defense will get its stiffest test Friday night at home in the Class 6A state semifinals against visiting Maryville.

RELATED: Super 25 Schedule

“They do such a good job on both sides of the ball,” said Oakland senior linebacker Jackson Cauthen, the team’s leading tackler (114 this year) in each of the past two seasons. “We have a lot of respect for them.”

Oakland has allowed a meager 61 points this season – an average of 4.7 per game. The 61 points have come on nine touchdowns. The Patriots have tossed five shutouts and allowed a single touchdown in seven other games.

RELATED: Super 25 Expert rankings

The only team to score in double figures on Oakland was Hillsboro (41-13) – one of those TDs coming late after the Patriots had started the TSSAA Mercy Rule (running clock after a team is ahead by 35 or more in the second half).

Three of the nine touchdowns allowed came in the second half after Oakland had already started the running clock and placed its reserves into the contest.

“It all starts with the coach of the defense, Stephen Jackson,” said Oakland coach Kevin Creasy, whose squad is 13-0 and ranked No. 22 in the nation by USA Today. “You look at what our varsity has given up, and it’s not much at all.”

MORE: Maryville seniors take special moment on home field where they never lost

The 2016 Patriots aren’t just stingy when it comes to the end zone. They simply don’t allow a lot of yardage to their foes.

Oakland has allowed 170 yards or fewer in eight of the 13 games. Teams haven’t been able to run on the Patriots, who allowed negative-1 yard on 24 carries in one game and seven yards on 17 carries in another.

Teams are averaging less than three yards a carry against the Pats on the season.

“I think it’s a combination,” said Oakland senior cornerback Shun Reed, who has five interceptions. “The defensive line can go out and cover, our linebackers can go out and cover, and our safeties and cornerbacks can come up and play the run.”

Added Cauthen, “Our defensive line is very good this year. That helps us stop the run. It’s allowed me to slow the game down a little more and read it. I don’t have to worry about if the guy next to me is doing their job.”

Oakland’s defense has 33 sacks, 20 interceptions and 14 fumble recoveries.

“We worked hard since that last game (last year’s 27-13 loss to Maryville in the 6A semifinals),” said Oakland senior defensive lineman Chris Onwumere. “We were angry. We built the young pups up. We got more physical. Everybody has gotten better, especially tackling.”

One thing the Patriots have excelled on this year is stopping teams on third down. It will be crucial against Maryville Friday night.

“It’s the ‘money down,'” Reed said. “If they get a first down, we get angry. We want to stop teams on third down and get off the field.”

That attitude, Creasy said, is one of the main reasons the Patriots have been so successful stopping opponents in 2016.

“We don’t talk about shutouts,” he said. “We talk about limiting their number of snaps and number of possessions in our territory. We want to win third and fourth downs. The points per game total will take care of itself.”

More Stories

Bronny James ranks No. 1 among nation's top 10 highest NIL valuations

Here are the top 10 NIL valuations for amateur athletes in the nation, per ESPN.

Read the full article

Current high school NIL rules in each of the 50 states (plus D.C.)

A current rundown that shows which states have adopted rules in favor of high school athletes benefiting from name, image and likeness.

Read the full article

High school football coach at the center of prayer debate gets reinstated, receives $1.7 million settlement

Kennedy was terminated from his coaching position after he continued post-game prayers with students.

Read the full article
More News