The saying has been around for years. But when the crutch of cliches that “defense wins championships” is spouted, most people write it off as being coach-speak.
Pick up nearly any press clipping on the success of Dutch Fork and Spring Valley this season and, more than likely, you will read about the exploits of offfensive stars Matt Colburn, Derek Olenchuk, John Miller or Chris Adams.
But in the second round of the Class 4A football playoffs Friday night, the winner probably will be determined on the defensive side. Both teams will bring high-octane offenses into Harry Parone Stadium, but whoever advances to the third round will have figured out a way to slow the other.
Spring Valley coach Miles Aldridge usually leaves the offensive play-calling for the Vikings’ triple-option attack for assistant Robin Bacon.
He spends much of his time with the defense and knows the spotlight will be on them this week.
“That’s where I grew up, so I spend the majority of my time with them,” Aldridge said. “My goal is the put them in the right position. After that, they have to make the plays, which they have done a pretty good job of.”
A glance at the stats shows that unbeaten Spring Valley has played a little better on defense. They have allowed 186 points, while Dutch Fork has surrendered 299 in 12 games.
The Vikings’ strength starts with the front seven. Linebacker Christian Miller, the standout who is committed to Alabama, gets the headlines with his 22 sacks and potential to wreak havoc every play.
But linebacker Josh Harlan is a North-South all-star selection and is as effective.
He makes plays all over the field with the help of fellow linebackers Donovan Palmer and Jordan Williams.
Brandon Thompson and Ja’lon Williams have been solid at defensive end with sophomore Henry Brown holding down the nose guard spot.
“Our front seven has been pretty good,” Aldridge said. “The secondary had to replace the two safeties, and the last few weeks they’ve come on and been very solid for us.”
Aldridge understands the challenge of slowing the Silver Foxes.
“They’re a big, physical team on offense,” Aldridge said. “We’ve seen their type of offense in bits and pieces, but not as a whole. They will use two tight ends a lot and, sometimes, put three out there and we haven’t seen many teams do that. They run a lot of motion to make you think and move and adjust.”
Dutch Fork coach Tom Knotts said he is waiting on his defense to play a complete game.
Several times this season, the Silver Foxes have suffered second-half collapses that turned games they had in hand into close games or even losses.
The intangibles are there but they have yet to play a complete game.
Safeties Lane Ecton and Stephen Davis are the leading tacklers. Ecton has played a little outside linebacker to get him closer to the action.
The junior might see a lot of time at that spot this week as the Silver Foxes try to slow the Spring Valley triple-option attack.
The defensive line has been solid, if not spectacular. North-South selection Omar Staley and Jason Matthews are standouts in the middle with Mick Lusk and Walter Roberson solid at linebacker.
“We’ve been a little inconsistent defensively,” Knotts said. “On paper, this is as good-looking a defense as you want to have. I’m just waiting for them to play that great, great game that I think they’re capable of.”
Dutch Fork has watched film of its contest with Goose Creek’s veer-option to see what needs to be improved for Friday night.