Extra Points: Brian Spano 11/11
By Brian Spano PrepsKC Staff Writer
We’ve all heard the phrase, “defense wins championships.” And that’s usually the case at the pro level.
As we are well into postseason action on both the Kansas and Missouri sides of the state line, I’ve been contemplating a thought about the teams that got there and how they will advance. The question is: Which is most important for winning in high school football, the offense or the defense? Or, is it the special teams? In other words, do high school coaches place more emphasis on any one over the other?
Obviously, high school coaches can’t recruit the kids that come into their programs; however, they do have control over a plan and coaching style they feel is important to sustain a winning program. And if one coach has an offensive philosophy, then that’s where the focus will be. On the contrary, if a coach thinks more defensively, he’s scheming to stop the offensive juggernauts.
During my travels throughout the high school football landscape this season, I wanted to find out what is in a coach’s mind now that we are in the survive and advance portion of the schedule. Most agreed on what it takes to win and move on.
“Defensively, that’s the strength of our team. We had given up only 64 points all season,” said Louisburg Wildcats head coach Gary Griffin. “I think this time of the year, you run the football, and you play great defense, you’ve got a chance to win. They go hand-in-hand. Being tough on defense is a key this time of year.”
One thing I’ve noticed from coaches is that a strong defense and a solid running game go hand-in-hand and one usually plays off the other.
“What I tell our kids, we’re going to play like we play,” Mark Simcox, head coach of the Park Hill South Panthers, said. “A lot of people don’t like it. A lot of people don’t like to watch it, but when we play defense like this and we play offense like this because we play defense like we do, we’re going to be in a lot of games.”
Park Hill South’s defense has been a stalwart all season long for Simcox. In the Panthers’ opening playoff win over the Raytown Blue Jays, the defense recorded at least 13 plays for negative yards and pretty much spent the entire game in the Raytown offensive backfield.
“It’s going to be hard for people to get away from us, and we are going to be in control most of the time of what’s going on,” Simcox added. “I’m not going to say we are dictating to people what’s going on, but it’s a good thing going into a game and knowing you’re going to play somebody that they aren’t going to get away from us. I coached defense for a long time, and there’s nothing better than to watch an eight minute drive on offense from the sideline. The other thing from a defensive perspective is that we have a good kicker. We don’t have to go very far to have a chance to score.”
Shawnee Mission Northwest head football coach Aaron Barnett knows that defense and special teams are the key to going far in the playoffs.
In the Cougars first round game against Shawnee Mission West, both played a huge role in the victory. A Cougar defensive lineman blocked a West field goal and then Drue White picked up, ran for about 10 yards then, as he was about to be tackled, pitched it teammate Kenny Mings he blazed the final 55 yards for the score.
The defense also came up big, forcing three turnovers in that game. When two phases of your game are clicking, it’s hard to lose.
“If you asked me if our team would be in the second round of the playoffs before the season started, I would have said most definitely,” Barnett said. “That was our expectation. Then things start to happen in the year that you don’t anticipate.
“Coach Angelo Giacalone, our defensive coordinator, has done a great job with our guys all season getting them settled down and ready to play.”
So, as the season winds down, it will be interesting to see how these defenses/special teams carry a team to the promised-land. Stay tuned, as the final weeks heat up.
Blue Valley North Mustangs
Excelsior Springs Tigers
Lawrence Free State Firebirds
Bonner Springs Braves
Lafayette County Huskers
West Platte Bluejays
North Platte Panthers
Liberty Blue Jays
Sabetha Blue Jays
Spring Hill Broncos