Getting defensive: Defense paving the way to Patriots success

Published 6:14 pm Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Pike Liberal Arts Patriots have started the season 8-0 and their defense is a big reason why.

The Patriots have gotten off to their best start since winning a state championship in 2009. The Patriots defense has allowed just 87 points all season and just under 11 points per game.

“They have been doing great,” said head coach Gene Allen. “Coach (Robert) Rollan has been coordinating them this year and he has done a tremendous job with it. We had a lot of guys come back this year that had a lot of experience last year. We have also had a lot of really good leadership over there too.”

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The Patriots allowed a season-high 28 points in their 41-28 win over Freeport. In two of their last three games, the Patriots have shut out their opponents.

In the offseason, thanks to new personnel, the Patriots changed their scheme from a 3-4 to a 4-3 this season and it is paying dividends.

“We just didn’t feel like we had the right personnel to run a 3-4,” Allen said. “Max (Copeland) is a great inside Mike linebacker and we had a couple of guys that would do a good job outside, but we didn’t know if we had a good inside linebacker. It’s worked out really well for us.”

Copeland is leading his team in tackles from the linebacker positon. His leadership continues to set the tone for the Patriot defense.

“He has matured a lot,” Allen said. “Max has always been a really good player. He has taken that leadership role on defense. He gets the calls, he lines them up, but he has also done a lot of film work. He has done a really good job at film work and breaking it down. He has gotten stronger and he has had a really good year.”

The Patriot defensive line is anchored by Grant Wilkes and Jaquavian Johnson.

“The defensive front we have coming back from last year have played really well,” Allen said. “Jade Sikes in the secondary has had another great year for us.”

Holt Steed and Ty Singleton are both newcomers to the Patriots and have made immediate impacts according to Allen.

Lining up beside Copeland are linebackers Chip Faircloth and Nick O’Brien, both of which are returners.

“This year they are our starting Sam and Will (linebackers) and they both have had really good years,” Allen said. “This defense pretty much frees them up. They have certain gap responsibilities and things they have to do. They are both really intelligent guys and they do a great job.”

The Patriots coaching staff includes three coaches that have a defensive background. Coach Allen has been a defensive coach for many years. Coaches Rolland and Will Austin have also had their hands on the defense, so it’s no wonder that the Patriots put so much value on the defense.

“I have been a defensive coach most of my life,” Allen said. “It’s like I tell coach Rollan, my other defensive coaches and myself: if they can’t score; they can’t win. Defense sets the whole tone. Those guys get fired up. We’ve done a really good job – we started that a few years ago – at running to the football. We do that every day in practice. Defense is key to the whole thing.”

The Patriots defense hopes to remain strong when they host Monroe Academy on Friday night.