By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer
Most coaches say that while offense puts fans in the stands, it’s defense that wins championships and the Warner Eagles are into the second round of the Class A playoffs with one of the best defenses in the area.
The Eagles (11-0) have allowed an average of 10.4 points per game while having posted three shutouts and held opponents to single digits in seven of the 11 contests.
“Our defense feeds off our offense,” said Warner coach Chris McMullen. “And the offense feeds off the defense. Each has the other’s back.”
An example of this is what happened Friday in Warner’s first-round win over Yale as the Eagles held the Bulldogs to a three-and-out on their first possession then marched 71 yards in five plays for the first score of the game. After holding Yale again on its next possession, it took the Eagles’ Wing-T offense three plays to go 59 yards, the final 51 on a sweep by Justin Wright, giving Warner a 12-0 lead on the way to a 40-6 triumph.
“The defense knows if we get a touchdown or two lead, and we dig in on defense, we’re going to control the ball and limit our opponent’s opportunities,” McMullen said. “The kids take pride in the defense. If you ask the guys, they’ll probably say they like playing defense because it’s reactionary and they enjoy getting the big hits.”
As Warner advances further in the playoffs, its competition gets stiffer. This week, the Eagles host Talihina (10-1) and the Golden Tigers are averaging 39.8 points per contest, 247.1 yards per game rushing and 114.5 yards in the air.
“Talihina’s a spread-shotgun offense and they have a kid that throws the ball really well,” McMullen said. “They’ll get under center some but their really big on spread and shotgun.”
The kid McMullen was referring to is quarterback Clark Austin who has completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 1,106 yards and 13 touchdowns while having rushed for 1,137 yards on 157 carries and 26 touchdowns.
“A bigger concern than him throwing it is his elusiveness,” McMullen said. “If all his receivers are covered, he’ll pull the ball down and take off. Our defense has to control him or he can score on us. He’s done that on several people.”
When Austin does decide to throw the ball, his main weapon has been Trevor Crone who has hauled in 53 passes for 841 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“(Crone) is very fast and real athletic,” McMullen said. “Our defense is gonna have its hands full. But our kids will be up to the challenge.