Rachel Roberts: Can defense escape offense’s shadow in 5A SIC?

rroberts@idahostatesman.comAugust 30, 2013 

It happens all the time in nearly every team sport: Fans and the media are drawn to the player who scores the most points.

I’m guilty of it all the time. If I witness a player making a game-winning play, 99.9 percent of the time I make a beeline for thatperson at the end of the game to get an interview.

But here is a good reminder that there is more than one way to win a game: The first three Treasure Valley players in the 2014 graduating class who committed to Football Bowl Subdivision programs play defense.

Timberline end Don Hill (Washington), Borah lineman Hawkins Mann (Boise State) and Rocky Mountain defensive back Khalil Oliver (Boise State) represent the less celebrated — and dare I say? — harder working side of football.

Their names don’t make their way into stories and newscasts with the same frequency as their offensive teammates.

They are expected to be fearless, tireless defenders of the end zone. Quarterback chasers and run-stuffing brutes.

Their roles are equally important, but much less talked about.

There aren’t too many kids who say they want to be a defensive back when they grow up, but somebody’s got to do it, and he better be good.

Defensive players have to contend with a dynamic, ever-changing array of offensive stars and schemes.

“The more diverse the offense becomes, and just the sheer number of good athletes on the offensive side of the football, sometimes it’s hard to defend it all when you have one week to get a kid ready to play,” Rocky Mountain head coach and offensive guru Scott Criner said.

For four straight seasons, defenses have lost their footing in the 5A Southern Idaho Conference. The top defensive team has gone from allowing 11.3 points in 2009 (Capital) to 19.0 in 2012 (Rocky Mountain) — more than a touchdown per game worse.

That trend doesn’t appear to be on its way out anytime soon, but that’s no reason to label defense as football’s ugly sister.

“There are just a great number of athletes in this Valley now, and a lot of these coaches are looking for other ways to make their offenses more dynamic,” Borah coach Darren Corpus said. “To keep a team down to 11 points a game, I think, is going to probably be a rarity, but you can’t discount it because every once in a while a team will just get a bunch of brutes that figure it out.”

Hill, Mann and Oliver could very well be the first of those brutes, and we’ve got an entire season of high school football to see if recent trends can be reversed.

Personally, I’m rooting for defense.

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