A look at some of the state's top defenses
When I was a kid, my father showed me his old scrapbooks from his days with the Port Isabel Tarpons. One clipping always stood out to me because it was almost unbelievable.
In the 1980 Class 3A state quarterfinals, Port Isabel and Van Vleck tied, 0-0-- Van Vleck advanced to the next round on penetrations. 10-year-old me sat there thinking about how rare shutouts were. But a game ending in a complete shutout was simply unfathomable.
Fast-forward 10 years later, and the game has evolved into a completely different animal, especially in Texas. The state is known for high-flying, pass heavy offenses and lighting up scoreboards on Friday nights. Shutouts are far and few between.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t teams that play tenacious defense. After all, defense does still win championships. So here is a look at teams expected to have some of the state’s top defenses in 2014.
Katy- One of the most successful programs in the state, Katy always seems to play solid defense. The Tigers are coming off back-to-back state title appearances -- won in 2012, lost in 2013-- and should be favored to make it three in a row thanks to a unit that returns six starters. Yes, they lost a key contributor in Jake Blomstrom at linebacker. But Katy returns six starters from last year’s squad including all-state defensive backs Collin Wilder and Sy Slater. The Tigers also bring back mammoth 6-foot-4, 320-pound defensive tackle Derek Brown, a Louisiana Tech commit.
Canutillo- Canutillo was one of the top teams in the El Paso-area last year and should be even stronger this season. The Eagles surrendered a mere 9.8 points per game in 2013 and return seven starters. Head coach Scott Brooks says outside linebacker Josh Gutierrez (5-7, 155) is small in size but makes huge plays. Gutierrez (128 tackles) is a relentless defender and both Bo Brooks (123 tackles) and Ben Galaviz are both big-time playmakers in the secondary.
Graham- What was the key to Graham’s run to the state semifinals? You guessed it, a stout defense. The Steers gave up just 11.3 points per game and bring back seven starters, so the unit should be just as strong this season. Free safety Mike Freeze (92 tackles, 5 interceptions) earned last year’s District MVP, and defensive end Dustin McWhorter (74 tackles), who holds an offer from Colorado State, is a force to be reckoned with in the trenches. Also keep an eye on linebacker Bohner Cottongame (76 tackles, 6 sacks) and cornerback Landon Gonzales (8 interceptions over the last two years).
Ferris- The Yellowjackets were one and done last season but are poised to make a deep run in 2014. Opponents mustered just 11.9 points per game against Ferris last season, and the Yellowjackets return almost their entire defense. Linebacker Derrick Walker is a man among boys on the gridiron. The 6-foot-4, 185-pounder notched 117 tackles and a sack last year and already holds offers from numerous FBS schools. Fellow linebackers James Alanis and Guy Gutierrez are also solid run-stoppers. Head coach Aaron Emeyabbi says defensive lineman Raul Gutierrez is the strongest athlete to ever play at Ferris.
West Orange Stark- Saying West Orange-Stark has a ball-hawking secondary would be an understatement. The Mustangs have the best secondary this state has seen in some time. Let’s start off with Alabama commit Deionte Thompson. The 6-foot-2, 180-pounder is a long, rangy playmaker that took three interceptions back to the house last year. The same can be said about Louisiana Tech commit Trey Spencer, who is one of the most versatile players in the state. And West Orange-Stark also added a huge transfer in ex-Texas commit Johnny Shaw. He starred at safety at Center last year and should make a big impact for the Mustangs this season. Simply put, this secondary is nasty.
Mason- The Punchers lost a heartbreaker to eventual state finalist Shiner in the first round last season. Mason still feels that sting from the loss, and this defense is going to be motivated to punish opponents. Seven starters return from a group that gave up just 9.5 points per game. Free safety Seth Hudson does an excellent job of reading quarterbacks and came away with seven interceptions in 2013. Fellow defensive back Ryan Wartenbach is also capable of making big plays in the back end. And linebackers Garrett Bibb, Luis Castillo and Darron Del Torro should strike fear in their opponent’s eyes.
EJ Holland is the associate editor of Dave Campbell's Texas Football and TexasFootball.com.
If you would like to report inappropriate behavior within the Facebook commenting system, please email email@example.com and we will review your request.