By GREG KEIM
THE GOSHEN NEWS
When thinking about the Concord High School football program your mind tends to drift toward some of the high-powered offenses the Minutemen have had in recent years.
One team that comes to mind is the 2006 squad that finished as the Class 4A state runner-up. The Minutemen scored an impressive 620 points during the season as senior quarterback Bob Cira passed for a noteworthy 3,931 yards and a staggering 46 touchdowns.
Over the years there have been some talented “Strike Force” defenses as well and the current Concord defense is allowing an average of 18.6 points per contest heading into Friday night’s Sectional 11 championship against Wawasee at Jake Field in Dunlap.
“Defense wins championships,” Concord head coach Tim Dawson said. “We went to Warsaw and had to win to claim at least a share of the NLC title.”
The Concord offense didn’t put the defense in a very good position early on by turning the ball over on fumbles on the opening two possessions. Warsaw took over deep in Concord territory, yet the “Strike Force” held the Tigers to seven points and Concord went to win 34-9 for a share of the league championship.
“The defense has gotten better all season,” defensive coordinator Brad Myers said. “We have 35 takeaways and are averaging about three per game, which is our goal. We have also done a good job of getting teams off the field on third downs.”
The Minutemen have shutout one opponent and held five others to less than 10 points.
Concord got the name for its defense from a 1989 video made by NFL Films that highlights great defenses and featured former Chicago Bears middle linebacker Mike Singletary on the cover.
“Coach Dawson showed us the video before the Warsaw game,” senior Taylor Miller said. “It shows some of the great NFL defenses like the 1985 Bears and the ‘Steel Curtain’ of the Pittsburgh Steelers.”
“Showing the video to the team each year has become a tradition,” Myers said.
Inspiration for this year’s team has also come from a little closer to home.
“We have talked to the kids a lot about Notre Dame’s defense,” Myers added. “The Irish defense has emerged this season.
“We felt coming into the season with players like ( senior) DuWhan Alford, (senior) Franko House and (sophomore) Brandon Thomas returning as starters we had the opportunity to be a pretty good defense.”
Speed has helped the Notre Dame defense and is a quality the Minutemen have as well.
“We had more kids in ‘Zero Hour’ run under five seconds in the 40-yard dash than we have every had in my time here,” Myers said.
Starters in the defensive line for last week’s 35-8 sectional semifinal win over Northridge were House and junior Duncan Boone at ends, juniors Michael McQueen and Curtis Brown-Watson at tackles. Linebackers were senior Dallas Maynard in the middle with Alford and sophomore Kevin Moreno on the outside. The secondary had senior Desmond Love and Thomas at cornerbacks, Miller at strong safety and junior Nick DeFreese at free safety.
“Some people may overlook our defense but I think we get the recognition we deserve from the team,” McQueen said. “This is a fast defense that likes to get after people.”
“We don’t listen to the talk,” Miller said. “It’s more of a pride thing for us. We know if the offense isn’t clicking we have to do something to put us back in the game.”
“We know our job is to put the offense in the best possible position,” Thomas said. “The offense gets the credit for scoring points, but at times it’s the defense that put them in a good spot. That’s just the way it is.”
McQueen ranks fifth on the team with 25 tackles and 21 assists.
“I like defense so I can line up and hit somebody on every play,” he said. “I like the contact.”
Current Bears lineman Julius Peppers and former Bear Tommie Harris are two pros he likes to watch.
There are two things the “Strike Force” needs to do Friday night according to McQueen.
“The defensive line needs to put pressure on the quarterback and stuff the run,” he said. “We have a pretty good defense and if we tweak a few things this could be a great defense.”
Concord was a 54-7 winner over Wawasee when the teams met during the regular season. Wawasee has made some personnel changes since then and bring a five-game winning streak into this week.
“We can’t overlook Wawasee, said Miller who leads the team with 37 tackles and 43 assists. “Wawasee has a new quarterback and a fast receiver. We welcome the challenge and will be ready for anything.”
Miller has accounted for five of the team’s takeaways with four interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Two NFL players he watches are linebacker Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens and strong safety Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“They play the game for more than just money,” Miller said.
Thomas started in the secondary as a freshman. He picked off six passes last season and leads the team this year with five. He has 32 tackles and 18 assists so far this season.
“Our defense has made big strides this season,” Thomas said. “The defensive line getting pressure on the quarterback helps the secondary.”
The “Strike Force” has 35 sacks on the season. McQueen has a team-high 10 while House has 6 1/2 and junior Steve Gattman 5.
“The coaching staff does a great job of making sure we are in the right position so we can make the big plays,” Thomas said.
Myers is assisted on defense by Craig Koehler who works with the line and Dennis Teegarden and CJ Shafer who work with the secondary.