Callaway defensive linemen lead the way
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
They’re the men in the trenches.
For a defense to excel, it all starts on the line of scrimmage, with the guys who have their hands on the ground.
Having an effective and hopefully dominant defensive line is critical, and Callaway has traditionally gotten it done in that area over the years.
This season is no exception.
Callaway lost some gifted defensive linemen from the 2017 team, including Jamie Sellers and Lichon Terrell, who are both playing college football.
A veteran and talented group returned, though, and the Callaway defensive line has continued to get it done.
Those men will be put to the test today against a formidable Bremen squad.
Bremen (4-0) brings an unbeaten record into the game, and an offense scoring more than 35 points per game is a big reason why.
It’ll be up to the defensive linemen, the men in the mud, to set the tone in trying to slow down that high-powered Bremen offense.
Callaway head coach Pete Wiggins is confident in the players, as well as the position coach who leads them, Jamal Bruce.
“Coach Bruce has done a great job with them,” Wiggins said. “They do a great job every day. They’re the foundation of our defense.”
The starters include Tyrique Andrews, Tre Heard, Destin Patrick, Curmondre Bray, and Lavaris Patterson, and Nathan Sapp, Keshawn Suggs and Keshawn Cameron get significant playing time.
Bruce, who was a standout defensive lineman at Callaway before enjoying a successful stint as a player at Duke, appreciates the way the players motivate one another.
“They push each other,” Bruce said. “They were doing up-downs from jumping offsides in a game. They were competing to see who got to 25 first. That always helps me do my job when they’re competing and pushing each other.”
All of the starting defensive linemen are seniors, so they know this is their final go-around.
One of those seniors, Tre Heard, said that knowledge impacts everything he does.
“I try to play every game like it’s my last,” Heard said. “It’s your last time playing high-school football. I think about that every game.”
Heard said he’s grateful for the help some of his former teammates provided as he made the adjustment to varsity football.
“We didn’t get a lot of playing time, but they helped us a lot,” Heard said. “We already knew what we had to do. We knew our job before we had to do it.”
Heard said he’s aware of his responsibility as an upper-classmen, and he strives to be a shining light in the school.
“Coach Wiggins gives us the speech every time,” Heard said. “You’ve got to be a leader. You’ve got to be doing the right thing, for them to be doing the right thing.”
As for the bond he shares with his fellow defensive linemen, Heard said it is unbreakable.
“We’re like brothers,” Heard said. “Everybody’s got each other’s back.”
Senior Tyrique Andrews stands out not only because of his size, he’s 6-foot-2 and close to 300 pounds, but because of his number.
Andrews wears the number 99, which is the highest you can go.
“I felt like all of our big players have always been number eight, number nine, single-digit numbers,” Andrews said. “So I thought I’d be number 99. It’s J.J. Watts’ number, and he’s dominating with it.”
While Andrews is focused on being the best he can be, he said the effectiveness of the defensive line depends on all of the players working well together.
“We don’t have one dominant player on the defensive line,” he said. “All of our talent goes together. It’s spread out, because we all play together. It’s hard to beat us.”
Senior Destin Patrick said he and his teammates on the defensive line have worked hard to develop their skills.
“Since the spring we’ve gotten better and better every week,” Patrick said. “We find our weak points and work on those.”
Patrick said it helps to have a position coach in Bruce who has been there, who has spent his share of Friday nights in the trenches.
“It’s good to look up to my coach because he’s been in the same position,” Patrick said. “We can always go to him for advice.”
Patrick said the defensive line is “like a brotherhood,” although like any family it’s not always smooth sailing.
“We come together each week,” Patrick said. “We may argue, but at the end we still come together to commit to a common goal.”
While Patrick has developed into an exceptional player, he said he also accepts and embraces his position as someone his classmates look up to.
“People look up to you in the school, so you have to do the right thing on and off the field,” Patrick said. “It makes you a better person.”
Senior Lavaris Patterson said a key to the success of the defensive line is the kinship he and his teammates share.
“It’s big,” Patterson said. “You won’t go forward if you don’t have that bond. All of us, we come together as a family to keep moving forward.”
Patterson, echoing the thoughts of Patrick and Heard, said he takes his role as a senior leader seriously.
“Guiding the younger ones on the right path is big,” Patterson said. “Coach Wiggins is pushing us to help them make the right choice, and the right decisions.”
While some other players arrived on the defensive line later in their high-school careers, that’s where Patterson has been since his freshman season.
“I enjoy the defensive line,” Patterson said. “You’re down in the mud.”
Patterson said his goal is to “just maintain my effort. Coach likes for us to fly around.”
While Patterson has been a defensive lineman for four seasons, Curmondre Bray is a newcomer to the position.
He’s played multiple positions over the years, including running back, before settling in as a defensive end this season.
“I wasn’t getting that much playing time in practice, so coach Bruce just said do you want to try defensive end,” Bray said. “I said sure, and it just went on from there.”
Bray has settled in and become one of the defense’s top play-makers.
“It was clicking for me,” Bray said. “It was really simple. I was a good edge rusher.”
As Bray went from position to position, he remained positive, and he hopes he has set an example for his younger teammates.
“Anything is possible,” Bray said. “If you put your mind to it, you can do anything you want to do.”
Bray has the appreciation of his head coach.
“He finally found a spot that’s home at defensive end,” Wiggins said. “He’s done extremely well. I’m very proud of him.”
Wherever he’s been on the field, Bray said being a member of the Callaway football family has been “very special.”
“It’s a good feeling all around,” he said. “I’m going to miss it when I leave.”
CALLAWAY VS. BREMEN
WHEN: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Callaway Stadium
RECORDS: Callaway (4-1, 1-0 in Region 5-AA); Bremen (4-0, 0-0 in Region 5-AA)
COACHES: Callaway – Pete Wiggins; Bremen – Davis Russell