Springfield’s evolving defense set for big challenge


David Duvall and Clayton Nezbeth lead the Tigers defense

New Middletown, OHIO (WKBN) – The undefeated and state-ranked Springfield Tigers offense have been lighting up the scoreboard the past eight weeks with names like Brungard, Tindell, Walker, and Ohlin getting a lot of the headlines.  But it has been the Tigers defense that has really shined as the 2019 football season has progressed.

After surrendering 48 points in their first two games, the Tigers defense has only given up a total of 29 points in the past six contests.  That includes pitching shutouts of two playoff contenders in Columbiana and Lowellville.

“The success defensively, it just has kind of been evolving,” Tigers head coach Sean Guerriero said.  “We have a lot of firepower offensively, but on defense, our guys up front are eating up double-teams and it’s allowing our linebackers to go run to the football and our secondary where we play a decent amount of man-two, free’s those guys up to go for the football.”

“The three different levels of our defense being able to play team football, I just can’t say enough about our football team being unselfish.  It’s not about who makes the tackle, or who carries the ball and gets the yards, it’s about getting the job done,” Guerriero added.

“We take a lot of pride in our defense,” Tigers senior David Duvall said.  “We make the big plays on defense, and I know the offense gets recognized because they score, but I’m proud of everyone on the defense.”

The experience and senior leadership have really begun to show for the Tigers as the season has progressed with them being able to make adjustment on the fly and point things out to the coaching staff.  The Tigers defensive coordinator Adam Slopek can now take what his players say to him and adjust accordingly to stonewall the opponent’s offense.

“I’ve been amazed when a kid comes to the sideline and says, ‘coach, we can adjust to this’.  They are starting to pick up on things that you wouldn’t normally see out of kids,” Guerriero said.

The quarterback on defense is middle linebacker Duvall.  Duvall is both a leader on the team, but also an on-field coach, making sure everyone gets the defensive call and in position.

“David has done a great job with that,” Guerriero remarked.  “I know there was one call in a game where he saw something and came out and told us.  It was a big adjustment for us at halftime.  Ten games from last year, his experience is really starting to show.”

“With me running the defense, calling the plays, I take pride in everybody doing their job,” Duvall said.  “I get the call from the coaches on the sideline and I make sure everybody lines up in the right spots like if we’re going to the strong side.  If I don’t, it could be a big cluster.”

On the season, David is second on the team in tackles this year with 64, including 3.5 for a loss.  The leading tackler on the squad is junior outside linebacker Clayton Nezbeth who has recorded 66 tackles and 3 for a loss.

“Our defensive line is the main reason why we are able,” a humble Nezbeth remarked.  “They are not able to stop our d-line.  We all get to the ball, we run to the ball hard.  The linemen hold up the double-teams so their (opponent) line isn’t able to get to us.  Then we are wide open to get to the tackles.”  

The Tigers defense will get arguably one of its biggest tests this Friday when they host the 7-1 Western Reserve Blue Devils.  The Blue Devils offense is running on all cylinders as they are averaging 41.50 points per game this season.

”We’re hoping to shut them out,” Duvall said with a big smile.  “We’re ready.  Our defense is going to do well, I know we will.  They are a good offense, so we have to be a sound defense and read our keys and make sure that everyone knows what they have to do and then we’ll be fine.”

“They are a hard physical team,” Nezbeth said.  “They like throwing the ball and it should be good because we are a physical team.  It should be a good game.”

“It’s a good challenge,” Guerriero stated.  “They end up in some spread formations and try to get the ball out quick to their athletes.  There is more than just Todd Henning.  He is unbelievable.  I mean seeing the stuff he does with the football is amazing.”

He continued, “Then they line up in the stack-I and double tight.  They can do a lot of different things.  It’s hard for a high school team to prepare for.  So for us, I think it’s a great challenge for us this late in the season and knowing going into the playoffs.  This is great and our kids are excited and ready for the challenge.  It’s an exciting time of the year for us right now.”

The Tigers have already clinched a playoff birth according to Joe Eitel computer ratings.  But the game with Western Reserve this Friday will determine the MVAC league championship and what seeding the Tigers will earn for the post-season.

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