LEESBURG — Lee County quarterback Stephen Collier gets the headlines and the glory, the hype and the glamour — all of the credit deserving of a future Ohio State QB who’s led his team to a 3-0 record.
Listen to someone talk about The Herald No. 1 Trojans, and they will go on and on about an offense that never quits scoring and can light up the scoreboard in a second.
But guess what? Lee County has a defense, too.
And on Friday night in Leesburg, that defense — which often disappears in the shadow of Collier and the Trojans’ offense — showed up in a big way in a 24-6 win against Herald No. 2 Westover.
The Trojans tackled Westover running back Shannon Saunders in the end zone in the fourth quarter for a safety, picked off quarterback Ta’Keevian Harris three times and sacked him four times and held a dangerous Westover offense in check for almost the entire night.
“We have a lot of confidence in this defense,” Lee County coach Dean Fabrizio said. “A lot of these guys have been playing for a while and have really grown up. We are just really proud of the way they played this season. A lot of people like to question our defense, but when you play fast-paced like we do it puts more pressure on your defense. We feel like our guys are up for the challenge.”
Nobody shined brighter on the defensive side on Friday than senior Jalen Bush, who had two interceptions, including a pick in the end zone that stole six points from the Patriots.
“It was all about intense focus (Friday),” Bush said. “We stayed focused and stayed in the game and played hard. We went hard every play and never stopped.”
Bush and the Trojan defense have allowed an average of eight points per game in their first three weeks of the season and have done so under the radar, allowing the offense to steal the headlines and the fame.
“Everybody in the news is talking about the offense, but we feel like we are playing well, too,” said Bush, who admitted it can get a little frustrating not to get much-deserved credit. “We get upset, but we work hard on the field.”
Westover found out Friday just how hard the Trojans work — and just how desperate they are to make a name for themselves on defense.
Malik Williams, Chris Melton, Kirvan Davis Jr. and Ronald Wilson Jr. all got sacks and were able to pressure Harris all night.
Collier finished with three touchdown passes to JQ Quimbley to run his season TD total to 14, but during his post-game interview the first words out of Collier’s mouth were about his defense.
“Our defense really stepped it up (Friday),” Collier said. “I definitely couldn’t have done it without them. I am just really thrilled with what they did (Friday). Last year we kind of had some trouble with the defense, but this year they are trying to make a name for themselves.
“They want some of the spotlight, too. And I think if they keep playing like this they are definitely going to get it.”
DEERFIELD’S EMERGING STAR: Deerfield running back Matthew Fox just needed three yards for a crucial first down in the waning moments of Friday’s game against Stratford when the Knights were trying to set up a game-winning field goal.
Instead, Fox got 32 yards and a touchdown.
The TD on a 4th-and-3 with 30 seconds left lifted Deerfield to a 28-21 win and gave the Knights their second victory in Macon in as many weeks.
“We played really hard,” Deerfield coach Allen Lowe said. “I thought all of our kids were really positive all night. It was the first time this year we had some real emotion on the sidelines and on the field.”
Fox had a career night, rushing for 218 yards and four TDs, which included a sprint on the Knights’ opening play of the third quarter for a 57-yard score to put DWS ahead, 21-7.
“He had a great night,” Lowe said about Fox, who has battled a hand injury and a hip pointer in the opening weeks of the season. “For the first time, I think he was almost totally healthy.”
Deerfield (3-1) is now unbeaten against teams from Georgia and will return home Friday to play Tattnall Square.
SEMINOLE OFF TO RECORD START: Seminole County coach Alan Ingram openly admits that his 2013 Indians aren’t as talented, fast or big as many of his other teams during his 10 years with the program.
“But they are playing their hearts out,” Ingram said.
What many thought would be a rebuilding year in Donalsonville has turned into another season where the Indians are running the ball down opponents’ throats and racking up one win after another.
And with Friday’s 21-14 win against Clinch County, the 2013 Indians have now done something no other Seminole team in the last decade has done: start the season with a 3-0 record.
“We might not be as talented as we were in the past, but these kids have bought into what we are doing,” Ingram said. “They believe what we are doing offensively and defensively. These kids are sold on the program.”
The Herald No. 5 Indians, who will likely rise in next week’s Fab 5 Poll after Nos. 2, 3 and 4 lost on Friday, were led by Robert Speights, who accounted for two touchdowns, rushing for one on a 66-yard scamper and tossing a 5-yard strike to Tyler Peters. Alex Fudge also scored on a 3-yard run.
The Indians rolled up 252 yards of total offense and will play again Friday at Pelham, which is also 3-0 overall.
MONROE FALLS TO FITZGERALD: Playing their third straight lower-classification powerhouse to start the season, The Herald No. 3 Tornadoes fell to 1-2 on the season with a 24-21 loss to Class AA Fitzgerald on Friday.
Monroe took a 21-17 lead into the fourth quarter, but Fitzgerald scored with seven minutes remaining and held off the Tornadoes down the stretch.
“It’s a tough loss because we made so many mistakes,” Monroe coach Charles Truitt said. “They are a good team, but we helped them out, and you can’t help out a good team.”
Monroe’s second-half lead came with five minutes left in the third quarter when Daryl Brown scored on a 5-yard run. Chris Young scored the Tornadoes’ first TD with a 3-yard run, and Brown scored with 20 seconds left in the opening half on a 45-yard pass from reigning Herald Player of the Year Charles Stafford.
VALDOSTA TOO MUCH FOR CRISP: One week after a thrilling victory against Cook County that lifted the Crisp County football team into The Herald’s Fab 5 Poll, the Cougars ran into one of the best teams in all of South Georgia.
Valdosta poured on 20 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to turn a close game Friday in Cordele into a 40-6 victory.
Crisp quarterback Witt Campbell scored on a 5-yard TD run in the second quarter — which was set up by an interception from Montre Hartage — to make it a 14-6 game heading into halftime, but Class AAAAAA Valdosta was too much late in the game and handed The Herald No. 4 Cougars (2-1) their first loss of the season.
“We fought with them and hung around for a little bit,” Crisp coach Lee Campbell said. “I thought the kids played hard. There were just too many second-half mistakes, and you can’t do that against a team like Valdosta.”