Good as advertised
NEW CARLISLE — On Friday night against New Prairie in a sanctioned scrimmage, the Michigan City defense had as many turnovers forced (3) as touchdowns allowed (3) between the varsity and junior varsity units combined.
The Cougars didn’t show their full hand against the Wolves in the final tune-up for both teams before their season openers against La Porte and Griffith, respectively, next Friday, but the Wolves did show how much potential lies within their defensive unit.
“They’re just a physical and fast bunch,” Wolves head coach Phil Mason said. “We had a couple penalities that bothered me on offense and defense, but our kids are excited. They wanted to play hard. They wanted to play fast. We’ll clean that up, but I thought we played great. It was physical and it was sharp.”
Despite the Cougars sitting some kids out to prep for the opener, including starting running back-turned-quarterback Chase Ketterer, the Wolves swarmed the Cougars defensively throughout the evening, spear-headed by a dominant duo on the edges.
Purdue commit Chase Triplett and tight end-edge rusher Justin Wozniak hounded the Cougar backfield much of the night, leading the charge on one particular possession where the Wolves registered three sacks in succession.
“Our front four is just ... we can’t block those guys in practice,” Mason said. “We’ve got four returning starting offensive linemen and a couple of those guys have been three-year starters, and we simply can’t block those guys. People are going to have a ton of trouble with those four. They’re outstanding.”
Along with Mason’s rave review of his pack of Wolves defensively, defensive coordinator Roydon Richards had a glowing review of his defense with the season just a week away.
“It’s not really about seeing what depth we have at this point. It’s seeing how guys react on the field,” Richards said. “What’s so encouraging is seeing how fast and how physical our guys are. We’re so fast to the ball. It’s gonna make teams really struggle against this season.”
The Wolves gave up a touchdown during the first 15 plays the Cougars got from their own 35-yard-line thanks to a pair of penalities, but then the trio of sacks followed shortly before the reserves held the Cougar offense to 13 yards in their eight plays of work.
In the final five drives that included eight of the 18 plays from the reserves, the Wolves forced three turnovers, including two interceptions from defensive backs Marquan Hurt and Kejuan Rufus.
“Our coaching is just phenomenal, man,” Hurt said. “I got other DBs with me [Rufus, Lyric McFarrin and Brian Walker] and we’ve been holding it down. Our defensive line just makes sure things get done up there and we’re just ready to go. The coaching’s been great and we’re ready. We’ve been learning and now it’s time to just go do it.”
It wasn’t just the Michigan City coaches that liked what they saw from the Wolves defense. New Prairie head coach Russ Radtke had nothing but positive things to say about the physicality the Wolves brought to his side.
“This is why we’ve played them three times this summer and tonight,” Radtke said. “No disrespect to the other teams in the state, but it was football. When we played them, it was football. They’re a good team. It was controlled and so forth, but if we don’t see that type of speed and strength they have on defense and they don’t see our power running game with our underneath blocking on offense, it hurts us both.”
Reach Michael Whitlow at email@example.com or (219) 214-4169. Follow him on Twitter @couldbelikemike.