Photo by Derrick Mahone
Dutchtown defensive coordinator Terry Herrod isn’t the only voice the Bulldogs are hearing after the team added five new assistant coaches. “That makes the biggest difference,” Herrod said.
Dutchtown at a glance
Last year: 5-5
Summer progress: It was all about the weight room for Dutchtown. With 30 players with varsity experience returning, the Bulldogs focused on getting stronger and smarter. Records fell in their annual “Iron Dawg” weight-training test at the end of the summer.
Work to do: There’s one spot up for grabs in the secondary, but coach Jason Galt said he’s confident that whoever wins the starting position won’t be a weak link.
Emerging player: A pair of wide receivers could be a crucial part of Dutchtown’s success this season. Galt said he hasn’t had a duo like Rodel Shorter and Brandon Thomas who have the all-around skill set to make plays.
The star of Dutchtown’s record-setting season two years ago wasn’t a breath-taking quarterback or an electrifying running back.
The Bulldogs won a Henry County public-school record 11 games and advanced to the quarterfinals in 2010 thanks to a defense that didn’t have any stars. It was one built and trained over the course of years, filled with a collection of seniors whose chemistry was unmatched.
Dutchtown is hoping a retooled defense can help the Bulldogs return to state playoffs and make another run.
“Talent-wise, we’re probably more talented overall than that 2010 team,” Dutchtown coach Jason Galt said.
Last season was a cruel reminder for Dutchtown of what it looks like to rebuild a defense.
To be fair, it had a tough act to follow. That 2010 defense was statistically the best in Class AAAA, allowing just 7.4 points per game during the regular season, which included three shutouts. It got even better in the first two rounds of the playoffs, when the Bulldogs didn’t allow a point to Thomas County Central or Glynn Academy.
It was a different story a year later.
After graduating a huge senior class, Dutchtown struggled to stop opponents, allowing 20.8 points per game, with just one shutout.
That largely explained how the Bulldogs went from 11-2 one year to 5-5 the next.
But players took ownership. They also embraced their youth, knowing that with another summer’s worth of conditioning and maturation, they could turn into a defense capable of carrying the team.
So they went to work. Dutchtown’s end-of-summer weight-training tests were filled with broken records. Galt also added five new assistant coaches to his staff.
“That’s makes the biggest difference,” Bulldogs defensive coordinator Terry Herrod said. “You see it in the players as they get better as they get individualized coaching. ... Now, they’re hearing another voice, and it’s good for them.”
Last season, players said they weren’t confident in making the kind of split-second adjustments that then-seniors Aaron Johnson, Rodney Brown, Keneal Petgrave, Jimmy Fervil, Ryan Sponable and others were confident in making. Or in handling those inevitable moments of adversity during games and finding a way, somehow, to get through them.
To follow such a dominating unit made for a daunting task.
“It was tough,” senior linebacker Tremond Gates said. “Last year, even though we didn’t have the experience, we still should’ve never played like that. We had more potential than that.”
“I knew where we could be, and it was hard to adjust to not being that good,” senior defensive lineman John Marable said.
If returning experience is any indication of future success, Dutchtown is in good shape. The Bulldogs return 18 starters and 30 players with varsity experience.
They have depth on the defensive line in Marable, senior Darian Creed, juniors D.J. Davis and Stephon Marck, sophomore Nicholas Friar and Dejuan Smith.
They have depth at linebacker with returning starters Devin Randolph and Gates, junior Matthew Daniels and senior Cedric Campbell.
Campbell also contributes at safety for a secondary led by returning starter Jesse Christensen, senior Josh Baylor and junior Brandon Durden.
Together they make for a defense that is beginning to look a lot like 2010.
“I think if everybody focuses we can be just as good if not better,” senior defensive lineman John Marable said. “I think better. We have a lot of talent on this defense, but we were young last year. We didn’t know where to be every time, and sometimes when adversity hit us we didn’t really know how to respond. But I think the experience is going to help us be better.”