Central’s new-look defense is all about attacking the offense

WITH A SHORTAGE OF BIG DEFENSIVE linemen on the roster, the Central High School football team decided to use its greatest strength — depth at linebacker — to its advantage. The Warriors are using a 3-3-5 alignment this season, which takes advantage of the speed of the defenders. The defense also allows for more blitz combinations.

It’s not that Travis Key minded playing defensive end for the Central High School football team last season.

Just the opposite.

His role on this year’s defense gives him a chance to attack opposing offenses and he likes being in that attack mode even more.

That’s the philosophy behind Central’s 3-3-5 defense this season. The Warriors have dubbed it ‘Search and Destroy.’

Central installed the defense during the summer.

“The kids like it; they bought into it,” defensive line coach Tony Santy said.

“It makes you have better instincts as a player,” said Key, who’s moved from end to right inside linebacker this season.

The defense begins up front, as all defenses do.

Like the more familiar 3-4 defense, with three down linemen, four linebackers and four defensive backs, there are three players on the front line in Central’s scheme.

Their job is to occupy blockers, which allows the linebackers to make the plays.

Brandon Hildebrand (6-foot-3, 230 pounds) is the left tackle, Charlie Payton (6-2, 190) the right tackle. Lining up at nose guard is Zach Rosales (6-2, 265).

By Class 5A standards, that’s an undersized line. That’s the advantage of this defense.

“We knew we weren’t going to have a whole lot of size,” Santy said. “We were long on linebackers and short on linemen.”

So, the coaches developed a defense to play to the Warriors’ strong suit.

“We don’t challenge the big guys (offensive linemen),” Santy said. “We run around them and have our linebackers make the plays.

That’s the heart of the 3-3-5, the five-strong linebacking corps.

In addition to Key, the other inside linebacker is Daniel Rodriguez. Derek Stoffel mans the left outside ’backer spot; Mike Martinez and Kevin Hill rotate into the other outside position.

Trent Harris patrols the middle.

It’s called a 3-3-5 defense because even though Stoffel and Martinez/Hill are outside linebackers, they can drop back in pass coverage, in effect giving the Warriors two extra defensive backs.

It’s a defense built on speed and quickness. As such, it puts a premium on attacking.

“We don’t want guys tiptoeing; we don’t want them walking on eggshells,” Santy said. “We want them being aggressive.”

The Central defense has given up three bigs plays in its first two games. In all three cases, the defense could be accused, if anything, of being overly aggressive.

“We sometimes get in (the backfield) so quick we over-pursue and the (running backs) can make a big run,” Santy said.

In addition to being aggressive, the defense must also be able to react.

“We look at what they line up in and we attack that,” Santy said.

The players have to read what the offense is trying to do. They can slide from one gap to another, fill a gap or have any of the five linebackers and four defensive backs blitz on any given play.

Key said the hard part is knowing you can’t take a play off mentally.

“You have to pay attention to what the line is called to do,” he said.

Central’s defense struggled a bit against Grandview in its first game, but played a solid 48 minutes last week in the victory over Horizon.

“They’ve made some great strides,” Santy said.

It’s a fun defense to play, Key said.

“You just get to fly around and hit people,” he said.


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