Springing to Defense
Despite graduation losses and attrition, Saugus’ defense is coming along well during training camp
By Joey Gulino
Signal Assistant Sports Editor
Saugus High head football coach Jason Bornn could be heard loud and clear.
All the Centurions’ offense had to do was gain 6 yards. If it did, then it would score points as part of a drill the team was doing during training camp.
But the defense wouldn’t let it happen.
“That’s 21-10!” Bornn shouted, referring to the defense’s lead in the drill.
It was even more impressive considering the losses on defense and the attrition that’s taken place in the Centurions’ junior class.
Some of the kids decided not to play football this season. Some others moved. Still others are ineligible.
All of it has affected Saugus’ depth on defense. Therefore, building depth has become a huge focus in training camp.
“I think any successful program is going to have to develop their No. 2s and No. 3s,” Bornn said. “That’s what we’re working on.”
While Saugus’ flashy offense has gotten a lot of headlines in recent years, the defense has been just as important to the Centurions’ success. Last season, the defense gave up 20.5 points per game, and it got even better during league play, yielding just 16.4 points per game.
The Centurions held Canyon’s potent offense to just 21 points, and they did a better job than any other league team at containing star Valencia tailback Steven Manfro, despite losing the game 14-3.
“It’s a very emphasized aspect of our program,” Bornn said. “There are different philosophies and different takes on how you build your team, and we feel that we build our team around our defense.”
If Saugus is going to be effective on defense again, it will need to replace seven of the top eight tacklers from a year ago. A couple key parts of the defense are returning, but newcomers from the younger ranks and upperclassmen with limited experience are being counted on to add some depth.
So are players filling new positions.
“I think we’re a hard-nosed defense,” said senior running back Tyler Watt, who’s also playing middle linebacker for the first time this season. “We’re a brotherhood. We feed off each other.”
Some other key contributors on defense include freshman safety Chris Hamilton, senior outside linebacker Cody Taylor, senior defensive lineman Wyatt Whitham, and senior defensive backs Michael Visser, Curtis Kahovec, P.J. McKillop and Colton Jackson.
Regardless of who lines up where, Jackson said the players need to be focused on their jobs.
“We’ve just got to take it as it is,” he said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen during the season. Guys need to step up. I feel we’ll have enough depth this year.”
Some of the newer players can already see the difference.
“Myself, I’ve come along a lot,” Taylor said. “Last year, I was nowhere near as good as I am this year.”
Saugus will likely be mixing and matching its lineups on defense throughout the season. Finding the right combination could make the difference in the league title chase.
“The bottom line is, if you can hold people, you can win a game 3-0,” Bornn said. “If you score 80 points but the other team scores 81, that’s not doing you a whole lot of good.”