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Class 4A state football playoffs: Central Kitsap defense ready for Curtis
They mangle offenses like saws chew wood. Furious, relentless, machine-like.
“Our motto is, ‘Fly around,’” said junior defensive lineman Jake Brouker. “And that’s what we do.”
“We’re really good at swarming, so if you get hit by one of us, you’re getting hit by three or four of us,” added senior linebacker Marcus D’Angelo.
Meet the heart and soul of Central Kitsap’s defense.
It is a four-man unit, comprised of Brouker, D’Angelo and junior linebackers Devon Lewis and Dakota Meadows. And this four-pack is a large reason the Cougars are still playing football.
When the team lines up against Curtis in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs tomorrow, you can bet this group will be in the middle of each big play.
“I think we all love putting pressure on the quarterback,” said Brouker, who has seven-and-a-half sacks. “We like making them scared.”
“We try to see who can get the most sacks each game, which kind of pushes us, motivates us,” D’Angelo added.
Reflecting on a season that now boils down to one game, each member of this quartet speaks about confidence, chemistry and trust. Through the first four games, the opponents scored 102 points and CK struggled to a 2-2 start.
The defense has since pitched four shutouts in six games, allowing an offensive touchdown in just one.
“We started off kind of slow chemistry-wise, but we built up and now we’re all together as a family,” Lewis said.
“In the beginning we were kind of unsure, but now we trust each other,” Meadows said. “So it helps us focus on our own job because we don’t have to worry about (the other guys).”
The evolution of this defense, particularly the linebackers, is impressive. CK lost its three starting linebackers — Howard McDonald, Cole Adams and Richie Meier — from the 2008 state-semifinal squad.
Defensive coordinator Eric Schuette turned to Lewis, Meadows and as it turned out, D’Angelo, who moved from strong safety to linebacker, to fill the holes.
“It’s been big shoes to fill for these guys,” he said. “There’s kind of a tradition being built from year-to-year. There’s an expectation that these guys have gotta play.”
Play they have.
Discounting the regular-season finale, when CK defeated Wilson 37-20 to secure a playoff berth, the defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown. South Kitsap managed a field goal and a defensive touchdown in a 10-0 victory over the Cougars Oct. 2, but ever since, the scoreboard has read goose eggs.
Both Schuette and the players credit their success to the fact the ball-hawking, swarming, gang-tackling style of play is, quite simply, fun.
“We don’t have a lot of huge (defensive) linemen, so we really have to fly around and bring pressure from different angles, use our athleticism,” Schuette said. “The kids love playing defense this way. It’s really worked out well for our personnel.”
D’Angelo is the lone player of the four who saw extended game action last season. The other three played little.
Schuette called the defensive scheme — the team runs a base 3-3 — “complicated,” resulting in the early season learning curve.
“In the beginning we were kind of shaky, we had a couple bad games,” Meadows said. “But now we’re real crisp and we can do our job a lot better. Now that we have the momentum, I think we can do great things. We know we can stop these guys.”
Meadows and Co. get their biggest challenge to date tomorrow in undefeated No. 5 Curtis (10-0), a team with explosive players that is averaging nearly 40 points a game.
A win tomorrow would boost the Cougars (7-3) to the quarterfinals for the second consecutive year, setting up a matchup against No. 6 South Kitsap (10-0) or No. 2 Skyline (8-2).
“Being the underdog, it kind of helps us,” D’Angelo said. “It gives us a passion to prove people wrong.”