DUNCAN — Byrnes defensive back Tyreik Lyles knew it was a matter of time before a newly installed defensive scheme would click.
Following former coach Chris Miller’s departure to Spartanburg High, defensive coordinator Mo Dixon came in along with several other new coaches. Lyles said it took the defense some getting used to.
“I would say it started to come together a little after we started 7-on-7s during the summer,” Lyles said. “We weren’t sure how we’d do once we got the pads on, but we were doing good in 7-on-7s.”
The Rebels got off to a good start with only a 42-35 overtime loss to Northwestern in the loss column. But the defense was still feeling its way, giving up an average of 32 points per game over the first five games.
Since then, the Rebels are allowing nearly 18, including holding opponents to 14 points or fewer in four games.
Lyles, a Wofford commitment, has been a large part of the production. He has 75 tackles with nine for loss, two forced fumbles and three pass breakups on the season.
Lyles said the Rebels’ recent knack of forcing turnovers has helped them reach the Class 4A Division I state semifinal. Byrnes (12-1) will host last year’s state runner-up Dutch Fork at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Nixon Field. The Rebels forced three interceptions, including one for a touchdown, in a 63-21 win against Lexington last week.
“We’ve made a couple of adjustments in practice, and it’s worked out,” Lyles said. “Getting turnovers have been a good thing. That’s what we’ve worked on going into the playoffs. We felt like if we forced a certain number of turnovers that we could come out on top. It’s helpful, because it gets our offense back on the field, which is a good thing.”
Jawan Caviness leads the team with four interceptions, while Zach Talley has three. Avery James is the team leader in pass breakups (11) and sacks (10).
Aymel Lyles has 20 tackles for loss, while Jarvis Magwood and James each have 10.
Byrnes coach Bobby Bentley said each player on defense is doing his job.
“That’s the mark of a team that can win a championship is one that can force turnovers,” he said. “Our guys are doing a good job with that and also playing very physical.”
While Dutch Fork tends to lean toward the run game, Lyles said the secondary can’t fall asleep.
“We expect a couple of deep balls,” Lyles said. “When they line up in (double tight ends) in the formation they normally run in, they can go over the top to one of their big guys. We’ve got to stay disciplined and technically sound to win the game.”