Trojans' defensive players keeping opponents off scoreboard

mlough@macon.comDecember 2, 2011 

Offenses that have faced Peach County in the past decade or so went up against a defense that combined some decent size with a love of physical football.

And there were talented players, many who moved on to the college level or earned all-state honors, like Darius Dewberry, Kelcey Lewis, Dion Armstrong, Roger King, Kenzi Ross and Reggie Taylor, among others, many others.

And they combined with solid high school players to give the Trojans a defense that left a mark, in the record books and on those playing offense.

But here is Peach County deep into the playoffs yet again, having a good shot at a state championship and holding teams to all of 9.3 points game.

And yet it is without the normal Peach County defense, so to speak, that the Trojans host Cairo in a Class AAA semifinal Friday night.

“What gets me this year is we’ll bend,” head coach Chad Campbell said. “We’re giving up more yards than we have in the last couple years per game. I reckon we’re giving them up inside between the 20 and the 20.

“But we’re not giving up a bunch of points.”

West Laurens scored three times in its 21-14 upset of Peach County on Oct. 7, the season high.

Carrollton managed only 15 at home last week in the state quarterfinals, one more than Howard and Baldwin scored in the regular season and Ridgeland in the first round.

Otherwise, the Trojans have held eight teams to single digits with a shutout. In 2009, when Peach County went undefeated and took the Class AAA title, the Trojans surrendered 9.3 points per game in 13 games, excluding a 1-0 forfeit by Macon County, which was a 41-20 on-the-field win for the Trojans.

And that unit included all-state defenders Luke Crowell, Jontavious Davis, Lewis and Randolph Williams.

Peach County has nine seniors on defense, but it’s not a veteran class.

“Some of those cats haven’t played,” Campbell said. “We’re playing some kids that hardly sniffed the field. Our numbers aren’t as good as they usually are.”

Linebacker Ryan Bowman, however, has plenty of experience, more than 50 games, Campbell estimates.

“He’s probably played more football at Peach County than anybody in the history of Peach County,” Campbell said. “He’s played so many games in four years. He’s played a lot of ball.”

Bowman said chemistry is a huge factor. “All of us, we went (to school) together, from kindergarten on up,” the senior said. “We just know each other, we know what we have to do.”

Bowman leads what is basically a hard-working, stubborn unit.

“Instincts and common sense,” he said. “We watch a lot of film study, and work hard. We’re underrated, for real. We’re not that big, everybody’s undersized. Everybody before was big.”

But there’s a tradition to uphold.

“Fast and physical,” Bowman said.

It’s not as if the Trojans don’t have some talent. Bowman brings the most experience, and linebacker Cassuas Hall is a veteran playmaker. Defensive ends Bryan McQuay and Lamont Wray as well as defensive backs Brandon Jones and Debarriaus Miller head the list of candidates for assorted postseason honors.

“We have kind of a ‘bend but don’t break’ mentality,” Campbell said. “People have moved the ball on us at points in time during the season, during games.

“But we make a play, a turnover, something like that. When you play hard and do your assignments, good things happen.”

And the scoreboard doesn’t change.

“I don’t give a dang how many yards you give up. It matters how many points you give up,” Campbell said. “We’re not letting a lot of people get into the end zone.”

The Trojans haven’t changed their philosophy to counter a lack of depth, size or big-time talent, yet are getting the same results.

“How are we doing it?” Campbell said with a laugh. “I don’t know. I ain’t figured it out yet.”

Neither have opposing offenses.

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