HAMBLETON?- A lot of things have to go right for a football team to finish a season with an unblemished record.
The Mountain Lions, who will take an 11-0 record into their second-round playoff game against Clay-Battelle on Saturday, have excelled on the defensive side of the ball this season, something coach A.J. Rapp says has been key to his teams' success.
"Our defense has been a big part of what we've accomplished this year," Rapp said. "We've been real steady on that side of the ball then entire season."
The Inter-Mountain photo by Edgar Kelley
Tucker County’s Zac Wolford, right, and Cory Hanlin (66) close in on Moorefield’s DaSean Brown in the Mountain Lions’ win last weekend. Tucker County will entertain Clay-Battelle on Saturday.
The Mountain Lions have allowed just 10 points per game this season. They have three shutouts on the year and have 27 takeaways through 11 games.
"Our defense has a goal for points allowed and turnovers for each game," Tucker County defensive coordinator Shane Eakle said. "Our kids pride themselves on coming out and trying to reach those goals every game."
Because of skill and experience, Tucker County's defensive secondary has been very opportunistic this season, coming away with 17 interceptions.
"Our play in the secondary has allowed us to do a lot of different things with our front seven," Rapp said. "All of our defensive backs are athletic and they cover real well. We also have three seniors back there that have started since they were freshmen."
The seniors Rapp is referring to is Tyler Snyder, Derek Nestor and Nathaniel Goldstein.
Juniors Zach Armstrong and Austin Zirk also provide depth and strong play in the secondary.
"Our defensive backs will come up and hit you," Eakle said. "Our guys back there definitely play with a linebacker mentality."
Even though they play like it, there's no chance that Tucker County's defensive backs will be taking anyone's job at linebacker.
That's because the Mountain Lions' linebacking corps is one of the best around.
The group is headlined by all-stater Michael Adkins, who leads the team with over 100 tackles this season.
"Michael is definitely the leader of our defense," Eakle said. "He makes sure everything is working right and leads by example."
Adkins is joined by senior Trevor Kidwell and junior Spencer Pennington.
The Mountain Lions' defensive line, which is powered by Cory Hanlin, Zach Everly, Cory DiBartolomeo, Mikhail Lewis, Marshall Whisner, Zac Wolford and Zirk, has also excelled this season.
"Our defensive linemen do a nice job of keeping pressure off our linebackers," Rapp said. "We've been real pleased with our guys up front this season."
Tucker County's defense will be tested again this weekend when the Cee-Bees visit R.H. Armstrong Field for a 1:30 p.m. contest.
"Clay-Battelle has a lot of weapons," Eakle said. "They have a quarterback that can throw it down field and some very capable running backs. Plus they throw 20 different formations at you. Understanding where we need to be will be key for our defensive players this week."