Prep football | Palmetto defensive line has led Tiger turnaround w/video

Palmetto's defensive front has led turnaround

jlembo@bradenton.comSeptember 27, 2013 

BRADENTON -- There is no rhythmic slogan or choreographed sack dance rippling through the guys who make up Palmetto's defensive line.

According to defensive tackle River Ward, there isn't much mystery to its success, either.

"Hat and hands first," the senior said. "Do what you've got to do beat the double team, get off blocks ... ."

Sounds so simple.

Know what hasn't been very simple lately?

Running the ball against the Tigers, who are allowing 106 ground yards per game -- second among area public schools to Manatee -- and just five total in the past two games against Clearwater Countryside and North Port.

They'll try to apply the same smothering pressure Friday night when Bayshore visits Harllee Stadium for Palmetto's homecoming game, which doubles as a chance for the Tigers (2-2) to head into their bye week with a winning record after opening the season with a pair of disappointing defeats.

And while Palmetto's defense has played well as a whole, allowing the fewest yards of offense per game (211.5) among area public schools, it begins with the tight-knit unit up front.

Ward, tackle Tyberrius Brown and defensive end Terry Collins are seniors who have been together for four years.

Devan Barnes, the line's other end, is a junior who has been with the group for three years.

"We show each love and push each other harder," said the 6-foot-1, 230-pound Collins, who had 3 1/2 sacks during last week's win over North Port in a Class 7A-District 10 opener and has five on the season to go with a pair of fumble recoveries. "Since we've been together, we've been talking to each other and meeting on the back fields, motivating each other."

Playing together and knowing the guy next to you doesn't always equate to success.

But according to the 6-0, 265-pound Ward, who has 14 tackles and 2 1/2 sacks this season, that's a big reason Palmetto's line has begun rounding into shape.

"Because I've played with them so long, I trust that (Collins) is going to do his job," he said. "At my position, I never have to slide to one side because I know the defensive line is knocked down."

Each week, the Tigers hope to keep opponents under 100 total yards. They came close the past two weeks, surrendering 121 to Countryside and 147 to North Port, the latter of which scored 87 points during its first two games.

But most importantly, they've allowed just one touchdown the past two weeks. The Bobcats scored twice last week, but one came on a fumbled snap.

"The way that starts is the D-line gets a lot of push and a lot of sacks and stuff," Collins said, "and we get going from there."

Such moxie is what the Palmetto counted on heading into this season. The Tigers brought back nine players on defense, a stark contrast to an offense breaking in a new quarterback and a bunch of fresh-faced receivers.

"If they can't score, they can't win," Ward said of opponents. "We lost three receivers, so we knew we had to hold it down for the most part."

Palmetto's success stretches past its line. Linebacker Inu Metealu has 42 tackles, and the secondary is allowing a little more than 105 yards per week through the air.

But as the old cliché goes, it all starts in the trenches. And Palmetto's big boys have made the trenches a dangerous place for opposing running backs.

"We just got tired of losing. Coach told us in order for us to win we had to get more aggressive and fly to the ball," Collins said, "and give our little brothers the ball back. Ever since then, coach has put it on our backs to get the offense the ball back and let them go."

Bradenton Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service