Defense leads Danville to 5-0 start
Charles Prince, Hartselle Enquirer
There was the "Steel Curtain," the "Doomsday," defense and the "Purple People Eaters." Great football defenses always seem to acquire a nickname. The 2004 edition of the Danville Hawks' defense doesn't have a nickname yet, but should they keep up their stellar play they may soon have one.
The Hawks are off to a 5-0 start and are on verge of a playoff berth for the first time in a decade. The reason for this season's success begins with the Danville defenders.
The Hawks have yielded only 39 points in five games, an average of 7.8 per game. The average however, is deceiving. Some of those points were scored after the starters had left the game and one touchdown came via special teams.
"No one has driven the ball on us this season," Danville head coach Joey Burch said. "If we have a one-touchdown lead, we don't feel the game is in jeopardy. We know the other team might break one, but we aren't concerned they can sustain a long drive on our defense."
The defense features 12 starters, according to Burch. He alternates his middle linebackers so often Burch considers both of them starters.
The Hawks' defensive line consists of Patrick Pinchon at end, Lee Waddell at tackle, Michael Potter at nose guard, Brian Sullivan at tackle and Logan Asherbranner at the other end. The linebacking core has Thomas Garner on the outside, Daniel Smith and Alex Randolph play the middle and Craig Poole is the other outside backer. The Hawks secondary features Chase Suggs at safety, while Tyree Murphy and Dante Orr are at the cornerback positions.
Burch, who played on two state championship teams at Hazlewood High School in the 80s, feels the Hawks could land seven or eight of their defenders on the All-Area team.
What makes the Danville defense so good? Is it the players or the schemes?
"Good players will make you a good coach," Burch, who serves as his own defensive coordinator, said. "This group is solid at every position and we've got players who play hard."
The front seven, as well as the secondary has players capable of making big plays, according to their head coach.
"We have two ends who can pressure the passer," Burch said. "Our tackles are solid and make it difficult for people to run on us. We have good linebackers who tackle well.
"Then our secondary has good safety play and our cornerbacks are great cover guys. One has seven interceptions (Murphy) and the other has three (Orr)."
Burch, who lead Danville to a 5-5 season in 2003 after going 0-10 in 2002, praised the defense for the turnaround of last season. He decided to challenge this year's team to surpass last year's win total and make the postseason for the first time since 1994.
"I'm very proud of what they accomplished last year," Burch said. "But we've (the coaches) told them that five wins won't cut it this season.
"We want to pick up more wins and get into the playoffs. The key for us doing that is this defense."
Despite their unbeaten record, Burch thinks the defense can improve.
"We take plays off sometimes," Burch said.
"Sometimes our technique gets sloppy. So I think we can play better than we have so far.
"This defense hasn't played its best game yet.
"But, I think we're definitely one of the 10 or 15 best 3A defenses in the state."