When the Henderson Lions take the field Friday night, there are going to be some fresh faces on the defensive side of the ball.
Henderson will play the traditional 3-4 defense with some returning starters from last season. But where you won’t see any of those starters is on the front line.
“We are going to play a bunch kids in those spots,” Coach Phil Castles said Tuesday. “We are going to be nine players deep, and we’ll play all of them.”
According to Castles, there are not going to be any ‘household’ names out of the bunch as he rated them all about the same.
By most respects, the D-line by committee is a good idea in the fact that you can keep fresher players on the field for longer drives of 10-plus plays or more.
As the season progresses, we will track the success of the committee.
Three-year starter Brady Odom, who is a pre-season MVP pick of the district by several news outlets, leads the linebacker corps.
Brady has led the team in tackles each of the last two seasons with 179 tackles last year.
“He makes all the calls and is getting people lined up,” Castles said. “He’s like having a coach out on the field at this point.”
Dalton Modisette is an outside backer and Alan Pollard is playing at the inside linebacker position. LaMarcus Hall is the other outside linebacker with experience.
There is a tremendous amount of seniors on this year’s squad, 30 of them to be exact with a great many of them having sufficient time ‘under the lights’ as Castles puts it last season.
“We’ve definitely got some seniors with experience,” Castles said. “They played a lot last year.”
In the defensive backfield corps, Jakobie Bussey, (safety) Daniel Benavides (corner) and Pedro Garza (corner) received some playing time last year and are leading the Lions in that department.
“We had some pickoffs against Gilmer,” Castles said. “We got some nice pressure up front from those nine guys we rotated and because of that their quarterback threw off the back foot, threw high, missed his targets.”
Castles calls turnovers “momentum changers.”
Turnovers, interceptions specifically, are opportunities to flip the field on an opponent.
Last season was fruitful one as Henderson had six pickoffs in the district games alone. Two years ago, pickoffs were few, and far between.
Man-to-man coverage is more of a deny the ball mindset, while zone coverage tends to produce more turnovers.
As far as the turnover ratio is concerned, Castles is pretty black and white about it.
“We celebrate when we are in the positive and we do pushups when we are in the negative,” he said.
“Holding onto the ball and taking it away from our opponents is a huge factor in the ballgame,” he said. “That’s something we focus on during the week.”
Last year’s game against Whitehouse was the first in a number of years, according to Castles.
“We used to be in the same district years ago, but they grew and we didn’t,” he said.
Castles also alluded to last year’s game as being more physical than most.
“We lost some players last year, and a couple of them for multiple games,” he said.
The Wildcats are a Class 5A-DII team with the likes of Jacksonville and Nacogdoches.
According to Castles, a higher student body count equates to a larger pool from which to collect talent.
The Wildcats, if you remember, went 7-4 last season and were a bi-district finalist.
They are returning 18 players; however only two offensive starters and six defensive starters.
In a couple of the preseason reports, the quarterback position is mentioned in the prospects category.
Whitehouse is deep in defense with four players with 40-plus tackles from last season.
Jack Clark (CB), Jermone Bowser (DB), Trae Paris-Hawkins (DL) and Ty Ward (DL) were seemingly all over the field last season.
Keys to the game
Henderson will need to have success in a few areas to avoid a repeat of last year’s game.
• Hold onto the ball. No turnovers.
• Control the tempo both offensively and defensively. Don’t give up the big play.
• Conversely, the Lions need the big plays to compensate for Whitehouse’s size and abilities.
Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. at Lions Stadium.
The Student Activity Center (located on the high school campus) and Henderson Middle School will have adult and student general admission tickets for sale for all Friday night home games beginning today and ending at noon on Friday. Student tickets will be available during lunch for high school students on Friday only. Advanced tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students. All tickets are $6 at the gate.