By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
The much-maligned defense needed this.
So did its coordinator.
Having allowed more points than any team in Class 6A, David Heath’s defense at Muskogee High rose off the turf to hold Tulsa Edison’s offense scoreless in last Thursday’s 33-7 victory. The lone Eagles’ touchdown came on a return of an interception.
“What we’d been through gave me the kind of feeling you get when you sense it’s time to retire,” Heath said with a chuckle. “We desperately needed this kind of effort. It was a solid one in all phases. And obviously, it’s something to build on.”
Especially dominant in the first half when they held Edison to 32 total yards, the Roughers limited the Eagles to 134 for the game, both season lows. There were five three-and-outs.
By way of a look back on film Saturday, Heath counted seven sacks, four coming by viper end Tramal Ivy and two by linebacker Ty Beasley, who shifted to strong safety after Orion Ennis went down. Ivy had seven solo tackles, Kelton Randolph and Sam Richardson five and Joel Lewis four.
Richardson also had a 90-yard interception return for a touchdown called back on an illegal block, but he still got the score off the drive on a 9-yard TD and finished with a team-high 90 yards rushing. Linebacker Haden Kolmer also recorded an interception.
Much of the success came through an aggressive blitz package but there were other factors.
“Getting Nigel Harris over from the offensive line (playing tackle on both sides) allowed us to move Kelton to inside linebacker and gave us a good player with size on both sides of the football and Kelton’s more natural at a backer,” Heath said. “Then when Orion (Ennis) went down (on the first series of the contest), we had Ty move to strong safety and he stepped up there.
“It was a great overall effort. We had the best 11 on the field on both sides and that makes a big difference.”
There was also some improved technique involved.
“On the blitz we were wrapping up on tackles, whereas before we’d hit, then miss,” he said.
Heath also gave props to Ivy.
“That was his best game,” he said. “We challenged him. There’s been a high level of expectation from him and a lot of press about that, but that hadn’t been realized before this game.”
Ivy admitted he got a little caught up in the spotlight.
“I had to quit worrying about college potential and whether or not I was or wasn’t getting it or what they were thinking about those (earlier) games,” Ivy said. “I had a heart-to-heart with coach (defensive line, Ryne) Perdue and let all that go.”
The overall effort Thursday wasn’t without overcoming adversity, either.
Edison caught a break by recovering the second-half kickoff at the Rougher 33. That turned into one of the three-and-outs, aided by a third-down sack by Beasley.
After Muskogee’s offense was unsuccessful on back-to-back plays needing just one yard for a first down, Edison took over at the Roughers’ 45. After a 17-yard scramble on first down, the drive stalled, thanks in part to another Beasley sack.
Then there was the march from the Eagles’ 20, a penalty-aided drive that got as far as the 18, where Richardson’s interception ended the threat.
Heath called it the biggest stop because a touchdown at that point would have cut the difference to less than the 15-point maximum awarded for tiebreaker points in district play.
“We got a timeout during that drive and I told them not to panic,” he said. “Our emphasis all along has been on being unbreakable and on that occasion, we didn’t break.”
Now comes Friday’s homecoming test opposite Sapulpa (4-2, 2-1), which after being routed by Jenks two weeks ago rallied past Bixby 14-10 on Friday night in a game in which it didn’t get on the scoreboard until midway through the third quarter and won despite being outgained 322-197.