Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Success Replicated

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Success Replicated

Article excerpt

Names are different, but results have been strikingly familiar for the defense

BRADENTON

Hands on, hands off.

When John Booth took over as head football coach at Manatee High, he had to decide.

Had to figure which part of the Hurricane football machinery needed his attention, and which part operated with nary a cough or sputter.

Booth's defensive coordinator, Jim Phelan, had been on the job since 2009. He knew both his personnel and the 4-2-5 defensive scheme in which the 'Canes had excelled.

Why intrude, where intrusion wasn't necessary? Booth went a step further. For the most part, he put his vocal cords on silent.

"He hasn't said much of anything," Phelan said. "Of course, we've been reasonably successful. I imagine if we screw up, I'll hear about it."

Any blunders have been few in number. Once again, the Hurricanes are in the thick of the playoffs, and once again, their defense has helped put them there.

The names are different, some of them lacking the recognition and star wattage of previous Manatee defenders, but the results have been strikingly similar.

"It's the old adage," Booth said, "you're not always looking for the best 11 players, but the best 11 players that play the best together, and I think we have that."

Points allowed don't tell the complete story of a team's defensive prowess, but it's a convenient starting point. With defensive lineman Demarcus Christmas spearheading last year's unit, Manatee allowed 158 points in 12 games, an average of 13.1.

Phelan was forced to replace six starters, Christmas among them. And yet through 11 games this season, the 'Canes have given up 161 points, an average of 14.6.

The defensive line was hit the hardest. Except for tackle Delvon Mayes, who played a reserve role in 2013, all of this season's members are first-year starters.

"The defensive line was my biggest concern," Phelan said. "They could do it on Thursdays. I wanted to see if they could do it on Fridays."

The emergence of defensive end Kwanzi Jackson has been huge. …

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