Victoria East defense stands tall heading into district play
Like so many things for Victoria East, the loss to Calallen in mid September was a turning point, particularly for the defense.
After that game, Titans coach Mickey Finley said the team, and particularly the defense, was slow to make adjustments for the Wildcats, who got away with a 39-35 victory. And it showed Titans defensive coordinator Rick Bivins what needed to be done on the defensive side of the ball.
"We got a false sense against the first two teams we played," he said. "We weren't as good as we thought we were, Calallen exposed some weaknesses. We've slowly fixed it, gotten a little bit better every week and now we're starting to come together as a team."
Since then, it's been a different story. The Titans defense has stood firm, not allowing any of its last three opponents to get more than 14 points, and limiting their big plays. Bivins said the coaches have determined the type of defense they are going to run, and it's produced brilliant results.
A big part of the Titans' 35-14 win over Calhoun last Friday was the defensive game plan, which was to guard against the option offense. East had an advantage: It had seen it from Corpus Christi King and, to a lesser extent, Calallen.
That plan doesn't figure to change against another run-heavy team this Friday in Beeville. Or for the rest of the season, for that matter.
"It will be very similar, we've pretty much decided on what kind of defense we want to run," he said. "Now it's time to get better at it every day, every week."
Bivins said the Titans approached stopping the Sandcrabs differently than other teams, selecting spies to watch certain players and for certain plays.
"We had someone assigned to the dive, to the quarterback and someone assigned to pitch," he said. "We felt like the dive was the most important followed by the quarterback and finally the pitch. That's why they got a few yards on the pitch.
"We made that adjustment after the first quarter."
Central to the Titans' defensive strategy was stopping Sandcrabs' fullback Brandon Griffith, who through the non-district season had amassed an impressive resume: 793 yards on 103 carries and 13 touchdowns in five games.
"That's the guy we told our kids to stop," Bivins said. "Nobody else in the area had really had anybody assigned to him, he'd been breaking runs all year without even being touched. Our defensive ends knew that they needed to hit him every year.
Were Calhoun's other opponents not taking Griffith seriously?
"It's not that they weren't taking him serious, they were putting their ends on the quarterback. We put our ends on the dive back," Bivins said.
The Titans limited Griffith to just 91 yards on 15 carries, his lone touchdown and almost half of those yards coming on one run for 45 yards. Overall, the Titans held Calhoun to just 194 yards of total offense, and kept the Sandcrabs' potent option offense from having a 100-yard rusher.
Having a bye week before the game also helped, Bivins said.
"We had twice as much preparation time, and our kids had a chance to recover and get fresh legs," he said.