Defense may be Panthers’ secret sauce

Posted Monday, Sep. 02, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Fossil Ridge has every intention of being a playoff team this season, and thus far, not many would doubt that becoming a reality.

With just an opening season win under their belt, its convincing 45-7 victory over Grapevine is even more reason.

But the Panthers defense appears able to make even an off-night by the offense enough to win.

The first three scores by Fossil Ridge were set up by the defense, said Panthers head coach Tony Baccarini. “It was big to the flow of the game,” he said.

The defense collected four turnovers for the night, with three fumbles and an interception.

The formula appears to be coming together for a formidable defense needed to win a district title or at the least a playoff spot.

“We have so much in addition to the usual suspects,” Baccarini said, referring to a complete cast of players backing up the battle-tested returners.

Those “usual suspects” include defensive tackle Anthony Villalobos, cornerback Nick Foster and outside linebacker Lee Subbuth.

On a defense with eight returning starters, others that are complimenting the usual suspects include defensive tackle Bryan Baker, safety Austin Ingraham and junior defensive end Roy Sutton, who Baccarini stated has been playing great for two years.

“For some guys that was their first varsity game and they played very well,” Baccarini said. “We played very physical on defense and did a great job.” Baccarini also noted the conditioning of the squad this year helped them prevail in the heat and humidity. “It allowed us to play fast,” he said.

The defense, in addition to the turnovers, limited Grapevine to 264 total yards: 187 rushing and 77 passing.

Subbuth caused two of the fumbles from his Willie linebacker spot and played an exceptional game, Baccarini said.

“I feel like we’ve come together with a better sense of trust,” Subbuth said as to why this year’s defense can make the difference. “We know what level we can play at and expect that in practice and games. We need to prove that we’re a physical defense.”

Subbuth said the summer workouts and team bonding has been a factor in the cohesiveness of the defense.

“We’ve all made a lot of progress from last year and a lot of us have stepped up and made improvements,” Subbuth said. “Both sides of ball are going to be pretty strong. The offense and defense have each others’ back. We have a good bond with each other this year.”

In addition to the physical play and team chemistry, the secondary appears to be complementing the bigger guys up front.

“We all play the ball really well and have good hips and swarm to the ball,” Foster said.

Building the trust has been years in the making, Foster said.

“The chemistry is because we’ve been playing together since elementary and middle school. All that are starting have played well together since (Keller Youth Association play) and middle school, Foster explained. “We may have moved around in different divisions but we’ve not gotten too far from each other. We’ve been playing together and now play together as one. There’s no one that’s a real standout.”

Junior safety Montrel Wilson is playing well, said Foster, after getting some playing time last year.

This Friday, Ridge will host Dallas Jesuit, a team which Baccarini said is a very disciplined team and will present a good test.

Jesuit lost to St. Joseph’s Prep of Philadelphia last week, 48-27.

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