TAPPS Notebook: Grace defense stepping up

Grace Community's Lin Gillham (5) hits Bishop Gorman ball carrier Collin Parks as Cale Tucker (8) watches on Friday at McCallum Stadium (Jake A. Waddingham | Tyler Morning Telegraph)

Grace Community's defense has been a steady force for the Cougars this year.

Last year Grace (6-1) gave up more than 28 points per game; this year teams are averaging 18.1 points per game against the Cougars. Grace has allowed 274.7 yards per game; a low total compared to the 490 yards the Cougars average on offense.

On Friday, the Grace defense accomplished something it hasn't done since 2007: a shutout.

"Defensively I thought we played real well," Cougars coach Mike Maddox said of his team's 61-0 win over Bishop Gorman. "That was a good lift for our kids, especially playing away from home. Our defense just got us the ball quickly."

The Cougars have been led by two sets of brothers on defense. Junior Andrew McCarty leads the team with 59 tackles while his brother, senior Grant McCarty, is third with 50. Fourth is sophomore Jonny Spitzer (43 tackles), with brother Jacob Spitzer, a senior, sixth at 36.

Sophomore Adam Graham is second with 56 tackles. Additionally, Lin Gillham has three of Grace's eight interceptions on the year, while Statler Lewis has hauled in two picks.

The Cougars had an advantage against the Crusaders' offense on Friday. With former Grace assistant Coby Gipson running the show at Gorman, Grace players were familiar with most of the plays they saw from their rival.

"We were such a mirror of each other that it helped prepare during the week," Maddox said.

 

BROOK HILL NOT FAZED BY END OF STREAK

Bullard Brook Hill lost a district game for the first time since 2005 on Friday.

Guard coach Terry Pirtle didn't pay much attention to the end of the 29-game winning streak in league play.

"I never even thought about that to be honest with you," said Pirtle, whose team moved from TAPPS D-III up to D-II this year. "We understood it was going to be a tough district going in and it was going to take an unbelievable effort to go unbeaten in this district.

"It was not something we're agonizing over."

Brook Hill (5-2) has no time to agonize over a loss with a trip to play Dallas Parish Episcopal coming up on Friday. The two teams squared off as non-district foes the last two years, with the loser of each matchup going on to win a state title.

The Guard won 27-21 in 2010, the only loss that year for the Panthers, who went 12-1 and won TAPPS D-II. Last year Brook Hill led 10-0 at halftime before losing 35-10 at Parish Episcopal; the Guard later won the D-III state championship.

 

CRUSADERS WORKING HARD ON, OFF FIELD

In the midst of a six-game losing streak, Bishop Gorman has no intentions of letting up.

Though the Crusaders (1-6) haven't won since the first week, each week the players are spirited in practice, often staying late for voluntary workouts, Gorman coach Coby Gipson said.

"I think they understand where we are as a program; we're still building the foundation," Gipson said. "They're anxious to get back on the field and prove to people that they're working hard to make improvements and get better."

The impetus to improve comes from the seniors. The underclassmen want to send the seniors out on a positive note while the seniors want to leave a mark on the program, Gipson said.

While the Crusaders look to improve on the field, Gipson said he's just as proud of their improvement off the field.

"We continue to make great strides academically in terms of our guys doing well in the classroom," he said.

 

TROJANS GOING THROUGH TRIAL BY FIRE

All Saints won't be able to reach last year's win total, but the Trojans are gaining experience by facing quality competition.

In recent weeks, All Saints (2-6) has lost to three teams with a combined four losses.

"I think it absolutely helps building for the future," Trojans coach Mike Hall said of the schedule.

The biggest advantage in playing against strong opponents, Hall said, is learning to play against speed.

"The more you play against speed the more you learn to take the right angles versus speed," Hall said.

Honey Grove was one of the fastest teams All Saints has played. The Trojans made the Warriors work for their points, particularly early. However, turnovers gave Honey Grove good field position as All Saints fell to a 48-0 loss.

"I don't think the score was indicative of what it should've been," said Hall, who said he thinks Honey Grove can go deep in the playoffs.

 

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