Prep Football

Central's defense leading way in playoff run

Central's Chayse Houston, right, tackles Triopa's Zach Thompson during a game at Camp Point Central on Friday, Sep. 14, 2018. | H-W Photo/Jake Shane
Jake Shane
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Nov. 6, 2018 1:10 am

CAMP POINT, Ill. -- Chayse Houston knows the importance of bringing physicality on defense.

"It's a huge difference if you have linebackers or linemen going in soft because nothing will go your way," said Houston, a senior for the Central football team. "Our guys go in there wanting to hit someone and make a play."

That's been apparent during the last four weeks for the Panthers, and why they're hosting Triopia in Saturday's Class 1A quarterfinal game.

In the last four weeks, Central's defense is allowing just 266.5 yards per game and allowing just 14 points per games, winning all four games against Carrollton and Greenfield-Northwestern in the process.

"We're playing really fundamentally sound right now," Central coach Brad Dixon said. "We played really physical in our last two games."

The Panthers have been doing it with stout defense on the ground and in the air.

Opponents are allowing just 3.5 yards per carry in the last four games, and have picked off 11 passes. It shows the Panthers are winning in the trenches.

"We know the games are won or loss up front," Central defensive end Bryce Flesner said. "If we do our job, the linebackers and secondary will do our jobs. It makes our jobs a heck a of a lot easier knowing if we do our job, they'll do their job."

They're also getting pressure in the backfield. The Panthers have recorded 14 sacks and 49 tackles for loss this season. Noah Strohkirch leads with 117 tackles, while Jaxon Mueller has nine tackles for loss.

But even if Central can't get to the quarterback, the pressure is just as effective.

"If we can't get a sack, we want to force them to do something they don't want to do," Flesner said. "We have a lot of guys that can get to the ball."

Central expects it won't have to defend much passes against Triopia -- the Trojans had one pass attempt in Central's 38-7 victory in Week 4 an has 24 pass attempts all season -- but knows it can't completely sell out on the run. Running back Zach Thompson leads Triopia with 1,795 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns on 223 carries.

"We'll have to stay sound because the play action pass will be very important," Dixon said. "We don't like our guys staring into the backfield or get 11 guys in on the box because that's how you give up big plays. Triopia is definitely a team that makes you be fundamentally sound."

The Panthers are confident they will be.

"We just try to be physical and use our technique," Flesner said. "We know if we put those two together, we'll be really good."