Where did the Defense Go?


Anthony Labrado, Sports Editor

The Firebirds have had four winning seasons in a row, with three possible chances to go into the IHSA playoffs. However, it has always been stopped-short due to one loss.

Many people believe that this is the cause of a wavering offense that has fell to graduating seniors and the injury of our former starting quarterback, Desmon Armstrong. However, there was only one shocking statistic that has been apparent in the past three years of football: the points allowed on defense.

The defense, ran by coach Brian Page, is a hybrid 4-3 college defense that has capabilities to shift to a 3-4 defense. It has been a focal point of the Firebirds football team, with the team allowing 80 points in the 2012 season, which was second best next to the Clemente Wildcats 60 points on the season. However, over the years, the points allowed substantially grew, and this season, the Firebirds allowed 212 points this past season, the highest it has been in four seasons.

Why has the team struggled so much in containing the football?

According to multiple team members, the fault lies in the linebackers and corners.

“Our linebackers and cornerbacks need to work harder in order for the defense to remain strong,” said junior Jamel Gooden, who is expected to become the captain for the defense next year.

The linebackers, which consist of senior captain Michael Bivens and freshmen Aloicious Arellano and Jose Alarcon, did struggle this season, as game film shows opposing running backs running through any types of blitzing schemes.

The system has also seen its flaws through coverage, as receivers are seen on film to be wide open due to gaps in coverage.

However, the players do agree that it is the skills of the players that do need to improve.

“The defense is ran well just needs the players to work hard,” said Gooden.

The problem for me does not lie with just the players though. Defensive Coordinator Coach Page has proven to have several plays that are repetitive. While the system is seen as a professional system, it is primarily wrapped around the same blitz schemes with different formations.

Also, while zone is ran sometimes, the overall schemes that Page runs are based on man coverage, which is a disadvantage when there are size and speed differences.

There also was an overlying problem involving the defensive ends, with outside coverage being a problem since 2012, where many plays were ran towards the sidelines.

The defense is at the worst it has been in four years, and in order to improve, the change needs to come through the coaching staff. Coverage needs to be emphasized, and it needs to address the overall attitude of the defense.

The mindset that was instilled in the defense was aggression all the way, however, the defense has proven that this has not worked. If a true defensive scheme is to be achieved, then it  needs to come through Coach Page changing up his play calling as well as a change to his evaluation on the players. By evaluating the players he has, he can judge whether he can run certain plays. Nonetheless, he needs to be more original with play calling.

If the defense wishes to improve, all these problems must be addressed, only then can the team be dominant.