Athletic secondary should be asset

Published 11:11 am Thursday, August 22, 2019

In 2018 Davie’s defense was woeful in general and its pass defense was a major problem in particular.

The horrid numbers: The War Eagles gave up 58 touchdowns and 400 points, the 36.3 average setting a dubious record for scoring defense. (The old mark for points allowed was 34.1 in 2015.) All of that can’t be pinned on the defense because Davie surrendered TDs on three interceptions, two kickoff returns and a fumble return. But it was the defense that permitted 28 rushing TDs and 24 passing scores. (That latter was another dubious record in Davie’s 63-year history; the old mark was 22 in 2015.) There’s no sugar-coating that.

Enough about 2018. The page has been turned and the secondary should be a strength in 2019. In fact, it has the makings of a dominant unit. There’s tremendous athleticism even among the backups.

Said new defensive coordinator Blaine Nicholson: “We’re going to rotate guys a lot more. Last year we pretty much played our base 11. This year we’re looking to play around 20 guys.”

Davie has five guys (Matt Hill, Kristian Lyons, Isaiah Cuthrell, Justice Redmon and Justus Tatum) with varsity experience. That’s a heck of a start.

Last year as a sophomore, Lyons was fourth on the team with 55 tackles and first with three INTs. All three picks came on an unforgettable night, a 21-14 win over North Davidson. It was the most picks by a War Eagle in at least 36 years; no one else had three in a game between 1982-2018. He’s a safety who made the all-conference team in 2018.

Nicholson: “He played corner the first half of the season. We had an injury and some poor safety play, and we moved Kristian to free safety so he could be involved in more plays. After that (three-INT) game, people tried not to throw near him. We have five defensive back positions and he can play all five. Kristian is going to be a significantly better player than he was last year, and that’s saying a lot. He’s aggressive, he tackles well and he’s a ball hawk.”

Said head coach Tim Devericks: “He’s the one everybody looks to to get them in the right spot.”

Redmon, a senior cornerback, is a third-year varsity player. He made 23 tackles as a sophomore, but missed seven games with an injury. Last year he had 34 tackles, 11 team-high pass breakups and two picks. He certainly looks like a star in the making.

Nicholson: “Justice is really coming into his own. He’s fully developed as a player now. Physically, he’s one of the stronger guys we have. He has a lot of length. He’ll be our No. 1 corner. We expect a lot of big things out of him. Even though he’s a quiet guy, he has stepped into more of a leadership role.”

Devericks: “Justice might do a little offense as well. He has garnered a lot of (college) interest. He won a few MVPs at some camps and combines. I’m expecting a big year from Justice.”

There is a lot of hype surrounding the secondary, and Bowling, a junior safety, is a major reason why. Bowling has grown up in Davie County and went to Ellis Middle. He spent his freshman year at West Forsyth. He transferred to Davie at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year but was forced to sit out athletics. After suffering from competitive deprivation, no one is more eager to get going.

Nicholson: “He’s going to be an exciting player for us. He can do some things back there that we’ve not been able to do in the past. He can cover a lot of ground. We can ask him to play man-to-man with guys and he has no problem with that.”

Indeed, Bowling has shown immense promise in practice.

“Man, he has jumped out on the field,” offensive coordinator Matt Gould said. “He’s fast, he’s physical, he’s all over the place. Whether we’re throwing or running, he always seems to find the ball. He’s been making a ton of plays in the secondary.”

Devericks: “There’s going to be big things come from Bowling. I don’t know if he missed more than one or two workouts the whole offseason. He has a great relationship with a lot of guys on our team. It’s been a joy to be around him.”

There’s an array of talent alongside Lyons, Redmon and Bowling. Hill, a senior safety, is the top returning tackler (63, including eight for loss), and he was first with four fumble recoveries. Cuthrell, a senior safety, is coming off 38 tackles and two INTs. Tatum, a junior cornerback, is yet another varsity returner.

Devericks: “Matt is similar to (linebacker Hunter Meacham). He’s very intelligent in the classroom and it transfers to the field. He also has the athletic ability to run around with anyone on the field. And he’s not afraid to mix it up at all.

“Isaiah is a freak athlete who is a track star. He’s very capable of making plays for us this year.

“Justus is a long and lanky athlete who always seems to get his hands on the ball when it’s around him. I’m looking for a big year from Justus.”

Then there’s Beaven Arey The junior is exceedingly capable of being a solid cornerback.

Devericks: “We have three good corners. Arey is fast, physical and athletic.