High School Football

Team of the Week: Cardinal Newman defense leads the way

Cardinal Newman coach Doug Dutton
Cardinal Newman coach Doug Dutton photo@thestate.com

COLUMBIA Cardinal Newman coach Doug Dutton knows his team is far from a finished product, but he has liked what he’s witnessed the first two weeks.

The Cardinals defeated Pelion in their opener and then allowed just 47 yards in defeating Heathwood Hall last week for the school’s first 2-0 start since 2003. Cardinal Newman will try to make it 3-0 on Friday when it hosts unbeaten Porter-Gaud.

“We are nowhere near where we need to be,” said Dutton, who is in his first year as head coach at Cardinal Newman. “It is nice to be 2-0 but we are focused on getting better every day. We are trying not to think about our record, because we’ve got a lot of things we can get better at. We’ve just got to stay focused on the process of getting better and let the results take care of themselves.”

Dutton, the defensive coordinator at Cardinal Newman in 2013, returned to the school this year after spending one season as defensive coordinator at Richland Northeast. During Dutton’s stint in 2013, the Cardinals’ defense made big strides and gave up just 19.4 points per game, a 14-point improvement from the year before.

This year’s team is on the same path as Dutton is hammering home the importance of being a tough, physical defensive team. Cardinal Newman is allowing 66.5 yards per game and has given up 12 points in two games. The defense is led by all-Midlands preseason selection Desean McMillan, Sam Ham and Sean Williams. McMillan is getting looks from FBS and FCS schools.

Offensively, the Cards are using a 1-2 punch on the ground in Tarence Tyler Jr. and Williams, who have combined to rush for nearly 300 yards between them in the first two games. Cardinal is averaging 265.5 yards of offense per game.

“We want to be physical on both sides of the ball and don’t make any mistakes. We want to make sure our opponents earn what they get on both sides of the ball,” Dutton said. “We have worked hard on being mentally and physically tough and we have seen glimpses of that.”

Dutton hopes to see it Friday against Porter-Gaud, which has scored more than 40 points in each of its first two games.

“They are an explosive team and can score at will. They are very aggressive on defense and pose a good challenge for us,” Dutton said.