Magnolia Defense Takes Their Craft To Work
When you talk Magnolia football, normally you think offense, but to win championships, however, you also need defense. When you talk about Blue Eagle defense, you must talk Bob Ripley. Coach Ripley, who recently retired as defensive coordinator, is still a big part of the defensive game plan for Magnolia.
A former student of the game who played middle linebacker for Ripley, John Smith, is now the defensive coordinator and works side-by-side with his ex-coach. He understands it’s Ripley’s defense, and as long as there is football at Magnolia, its always will be Ripley’s defense.
Although Coach Smith is in charge, he still openly accepts Ripley’s advice and implements it into his game plan. Coach Smith passes that advice on to his defensive unit.
The goal of defensive strategy is to prevent the opposing offense from gaining yards and scoring points. This is done by preventing the opposing team from advancing the ball beyond the line of scrimmage or causing turnovers to allow more opportunities for the Big Blue to put points on the board.
On defense, there is usually three types of players: linemen, linebackers and defensive backs, usually called the secondary. They play specific positions on the field and their duties during the game vary depending on the type of defense they are using as well as the kind of offense they are facing. At Magnolia, the Eagles normally use a 4-3, but depending on the situation, they will change the scheme if needed. And with the team Smith has this season, the defense can and has played what ever
scheme is necessary to get the job done. Up front, the Big Blue defense has several guys who fit in nicely into what they want to do.
In running situations, the Eagles will use Joe Ledergerber, 5’11, 185 lbs., at nose tackle, Miles Hostetler, 6’4, 331 lbs, at strong tackle while Kyle Ritz, 6’4, 232 lbs., and Zach Haught, 6’3, 210 lbs., are at the ends.
When a passing situation presents itself, Chase Street, 5’9, 170 lbs., comes in at linebacker and Paden McConaughey, 5’8, 175 lbs., will move up to the line from his linebacker slot to give the unit more speed at both positions.
The 4-3 scheme gives the linebackers more opportunities to make the stop. Hunter Brill, 5’9, 205 lbs., is the middle linebacker, McConaughey is outside linebacker, and Carter Seckman, 6’1, 225 lbs., is the weak side linebacker.
The secondary has Peau Halahingano, 5’10, 170 lbs., at strong safety. Brandon Mason, 5’10, 175 lbs., and Todd Lemasters, 6’1, 170 lbs., are the corners, with Tyler Anderson, 6′, 175 lbs., at free safety.
Hunter Partridge, 5’8, 165 lbs., provides help with his speed and quickness and tackling ability, as well as a host of others. With Smith, calling the defense, and Coach Kent Pilant working with the secondary, the Eagles have one of the better defenses in the state.
“We have a tight-knit group here on defense, they are all very intelligent and are students of the game, and carry a 4.0 GPA to boot,” Coach Smith said. Brill, Seckman and Anderson are the defensive captains.
The bread-and-butter for Magnolia has been the unforgiving ground attack that has two prolific 1,000-yard runners. Couple that with a solid and stingy defense and the Eagles are an impressive group.
The defense has limited opposing teams to 98 points in nine games, (with a good many coming late in the game by the reserves) and have recorded three shutouts. They have 19 quarterback sacks this season, along with 12 interceptions, one which was returned for a touchdown.
They have forced seven fumbles and have made 50 tackles for loss of yardage. The defense has also scored twice and has blocked two punts, one which was returned for a TD. The team leaders on defense are Seckman and Brill with 79 and 78 tackles respectively, while Ritz leads the team in quarterback sacks with four.
“When I talk about defense, I get really excited,” Smith said. “So while each unit is important to the success of the defense, it’s how they complement each other that is the secret to their success.
They’ve been playing well all season long and have put our offense in good situations, not only giving them a short field, but also allowing the offense to be patient.”
It starts with the guys up front. They bring a lot of aggressiveness. Their goal every play is to establish a new line of scrimmage. They demand so much attention that they fight through double teams and still make plays.
The play of the Blue Eagles’ secondary this season, more than in past seasons, is to provide pass coverage which allows the line and linebackers to be more aggressive. This has been a big reason for the defensive unit’s success thus far. These guys moved together as one, and the success takes care of itself.
The swarming defense has helped the Eagles stay in a few tight games. When needed, the punting unit has pushed opposing teams into poor field position with the punting of Brooks Parsons. The entire special team unit’s relentless coverage, coached by Travis Emch, has been outstanding all season long.
The offense and defense goes hand in hand in the makeup of a great team. It starts with Coach Sims, and trickles down to his offensive coordinator Dave Chapman with help from Smith, Pilant and Emch.
But, it also has a lot to do with line coach Moke Riggs, who gets the linemen prepared offensively as well as defensively. But being a winning team goes even further than that at Magnolia. They have the complete support of the school’s principal, Kathi Schmaltz, and vice principal and former head coach Mark Batton, too.
You can’t put one aspect of the game in front of the other because it is a team sport and everyone plays a roll in the success – from the starters to the subs. And let’s not forget the bench players that help prepare the starters during practice all year long.
The defensive unit gives the glory to their student body, parents, coaches, teammates and fans. In the end, however, it’s the players that bring the Ripley defense to life.