LEESBURG — As many scholarship offers as have come Lee County’s way, it’s easy to pinpoint players as individual defensive stars.
With the likes of Otis Reese committed to Michigan and more going to other Division I programs, big-name players tend to make the headlines. But through two weeks of the 2017 season, the entire Lee County defensive unit taken as a whole has been the driving force behind a solid 2-0 start.
The Trojans’ defense has come up with eight takeaways and two defensive touchdowns so far. And while both Mary Persons and Bainbridge put points on the scoreboard, the defensive effort has been effective in terms of wins and losses.
As a result, Lee County is up to second place in the Georgia Sports Writers Association GHSA Class 6A poll heading into Friday’s 7:30 p.m. home game against Hardaway.
“Last year we played great defense, and those guys are trying to carry that on this year,” Lee County head coach Dean Fabrizio said. “They’re doing a good job. As a group collectively, they’re really playing well together and playing hard.
“Our defensive coaches, John Smith, our defensive coordinator, and his staff continue to do a great job.”
One of the reasons why Lee County’s defense has been effective has been its philosophy of attacking the football.
The Trojans’ defense likes to fly to the football, with several Lee County players getting in on the stop of an opposing ball carrier or, in the case of pass attempts, creating opportunities for takeaways.
“I’m sure they preach turnovers, just like we do,” Bainbridge head coach Jeff Littleton said. “When there’s a tipped pass, they rally to it and they get in position to catch the tips. That’s a credit to their coaching staff and their players.”
Secondary options have struggled so far against Lee County, even if primary offensive targets have picked up their normal numbers.
In last week’s 38-13 win over Bainbridge, Florida-bound Dameon Pierce had a strong rushing effort, a 28-carry, 174-yard night that included a 1-yard scoring run and a 57-yard scamper in the second half. But the Bearcats were able to get little going otherwise, gaining zero rushing yards from other carriers and just 45 passing yards overall.
Against Mary Persons, the Lee County defense yielded 139 total yards, with no single running back or receiver reaching the 50-yard mark.
“(Pierce) is a great player, and we knew we were going to have our hands full with him,” Fabrizio said. “We knew the key to the game would be limiting other options. We needed to a good job against their passing game, we needed to do a great job against other guys running the football, and we needed to contain him the best we can. We felt like we did a good job with that.
“We were able to play opportunistic and get some takeaways, and that’s huge.”
Hardaway (1-1) enters Friday’s game coming off a 20-15 win over Harris County in Saturday’s Muscogee County Fall Classic. The Golden Hawks opened the season with a 31-28 loss to Troup.
“Hardaway is a much improved football team from a couple of years ago,” Fabrizio said. “(Head coach Michael) Woolridge has done a great job there. They got a big win last week over Harris County, and they have a lot of good players.”