Crawford: Defense key in Rams’ 5-0 start


First Posted: 9/23/2009

The motto of a Mark Heil-coached football team over the last 18 years has been Be Physical and that hasnt changed with this years youth movement on defense at Purnell Swett.
Heil doesnt get excited when quarterback Ethan Clark gallops his way to the end zone or get all giddy when fullback Jock Clark runs over a defender. Instead, the former Elon linebacker leaps on the sideline and gets fired up after a defender makes a bone-jarring hit or gets an important sack resulting in a change of field position.
Returning only one starter from a playoff squad that compiled a 7-5 record a season ago, Purnell Swett is off to a 5-0 start coming off Fridays convincing 36-12 performance over Pine Forest.
We are where we expected to be, Heil said on his teams perfect start. There have been times this season where weve had five sophomores on the field defensively. As a coach, you ask your players to give you everything theyve got, and to be perfectly honest, I thought our team played as hard as any team weve had in awhile on Friday.
Heil was worried that his inexperienced secondary would give the Rams problems against passing teams. The players shrugged off the skepticism and responded in a big way against the Trojans. Swett held Pine Forest s prolific air attack to 104 yards and one touchdown, limiting star wide receiver TeVell Williams to three catches for 29 yards.
Trojans quarterback Will Trower was hurried nearly every snap and sacked three times. Defensive back Ewin McQueen was in the right place at the right time in the fourth quarter, scoring on a 15-yard fumble return following a bobbled snap by Trower.
Sophomore corner Jamarcus Harrington forced a fumble from Pine Forest s Gabe Mercer, knocking the ball loose inside the 20 as the Trojans were trying to desperately get back into the game late in the third quarter, trailing 18-6.
Heil called Harringtons tackle and strip a momentum shifter, and one of the top individual stops hes seen this season.
With the victory over Pine Forest , Swett continued its recent dominance over Class 4-A teams from Cumberland County , winning 10 of the last 13 contests since the start of 2007. The Rams are 3-0 against the Trojans and E.E. Smith, and have won two meetings each with Cape Fear and Terry Sanford.
Armed with Robeson County s stingiest defense, allowing 7.6 points per game, the Rams have to be one of the early favorites in the Southeastern Conference when league play starts Oct. 9 against Scotland County .
Swett returns to action Friday, traveling two hours to face Wilmington Ashley (2-3). Heil predicts Ashley to stack the line of scrimmage defensively to stop his teams running game. “They are 2-3, but have a lot of talent,” Heil said. “Ashley has a left-handed quarterback who had a good game last year against us last year and on defense, they run 4-4 and 3-4 sets. I expect those guys to put eight or nine in the box against us.”
The Rams won last seasons season-opener at Ashley, 35-33, and will have an off week before their battle with the Fighting Scots.

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