Neah Bay brings stout football defense to Friday's state title game
David Willoughby/for Peninsula Daily News
Neah Bay's John Reamer (34) teams with Bill Hanson (30) Ezekiel Greene (26) and Cameron Buzzell (14) to take down Cusick running back Alec Bluff.
David Willoughby/for Peninsula Daily News
Neah Bay defensive end Josiah Greene hits Cusick quarterback Tyson Shanholtzer right as he released the ball.
By Lee Horton
Peninsula Daily news
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Less players equals more space, and more space increases the chances for big plays.
A team with 11 players can easily cover the field with bodies, horizontally and vertically.
If a ball carrier gets past the defensive line, he then has to deal with linebackers and defensive backs.
There aren't as many levels in 8-man football, so a ball carrier that gets past the defensive line and linebackers usually only needs to win a foot race to the end zone.
“You've got to really stay home and contain,” Neah Bay linebacker Tyler McCaulley said after the Red Devils held Lummi to 14 points in the 1B semifinal last week.
“That's the key: You've got to really contain them.”
Top-ranked Neah Bay heads into Friday's state championship game against Touchet at the Tacoma Dome (4 p.m. kickoff) with an 11-0 record.
Over those 11 games, the Red Devils scored an average of 59.8 points per game while allowing only 14.7 points per game.
Seven times they allowed 14 points or less in a game.
Head coach Tony McCaulley said Neah Bay's defensive success comes from experience and each player believing his teammates will fulfill their assignment.
“You have to have a lot of trust,” he said.
“Every player has got to trust one another, and that's what we preach all the time: Everybody has got to do their job.
“And I think you have a lot of senior leadership there, and they trust one another, and that's why we can play defense.
“Just a trust thing.”
Neah Bay has held its opponents this season to 1,274 yards rushing (115.8 yards per game). That number would be higher, but the Red Devils have forced 408 negative rushing yards.
Opponents have passed for 1,455 yards (132.7 per game) and completed just 38 percent of their passes.
Neah Bay has recovered 41 fumbles and intercepted 13 passes. The defense has scored six touchdowns.
Making the Red Devils' defensive accomplishments even more impressive is that it has been playing without defensive leader Tyler McCaulley for most of the season due to injuries.
As the state championship rolls around, McCaulley's absence might actually make the Red Devils' defense more formidable, as it has give players such as Elisha Winck more experience.
“It's hard not to have him play, but on the other hand, we have some experienced guys that have played a lot because he hasn't been out there,” Tony McCaulley said.
“So that's kind of helped us a little bit. It's helped our depth.”
That depth could prove to be a huge advantage Friday if the Red Devils find themselves in a low-scoring (by 8-man standards), close game as they have in the last two title games.
■ Tyler McCaulley, defensive ends Ezekiel Greene and Josiah Greene, lineman John Reamer and defensive back Cole Svec were all named to the All-Northwest Football League North Division first-team defense.
■ Ezekiel Greene (80 tackles) and Reamer (79) are Neah Bay's leading tacklers this season.
Defensive backs Svec and Cameron Buzzell are next with 70 and 66, respectively.
■ Svec and Buzzell, who are freshmen, have played a big role on the defense this season, particularly in the two meetings against Lummi's high-powered passing attack.
Svec said their defensive approach is simple.
“You just got to watch where the ball is and go after it,” he said.
“That's all you've got to do. There's not a lot of people on the field.”
■ Ezekiel Greene intercepted four passes in one game in 2012, which is tied for second most in Washington 8-man history.
Sports Editor Lee Horton can be reached at 360-417-3525 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: December 04. 2013 7:06PM