Defenses have stood out over the first two weeks of the season, particularly as some offensive systems struggle to get the kinks out.
Special photo by Cecil Copeland
Early in the season, it is natural for defenses to be ahead of offenses.
With spread offenses sweeping through the high school ranks, it takes teams longer to jell and gain the needed timing to run many of the intricate pass patterns and blocking formations. Many times, an offense’s efficiency takes a big jump from Week 1 to Week 2, but that doesn’t seem to be the case this year.
In the 13 games involving Cobb County teams this weekend, nine of the 10 winning teams held opponents to 14 or fewer points. Walton, Mount Paran Christian and North Cobb Christian each posted shutouts.
That number rose from Week 1, when four teams allowed 14 or fewer points, and only Kell held its opponent scoreless.
Going back over the last few years, it looks like it may be a trend. Aside from 2014, when there were only eight times over the first two weeks of the season in which a team held its opponent to 14 or fewer points, defenses have seemingly had the upper hand.
There were 13 instances and three shutouts in 2013, 11 and three shutouts in 2012, 11 and one shutout in 2011, 10 and one shutout in 2010 and nine and two shutouts in 2009.
“Defenses are definitely catching up,” South Cobb coach Sherrod Rainge said after his team allowed only 12 points to Pope on Friday. “Defenses are definitely more prepared to cover the spread. They are forcing you out of things you are comfortable with.”
Sprayberry coach Billy Shackelford agrees. The Yellow Jackets join Allatoona and Harrison as the only Cobb teams which have held both of their first two opponents to fewer than 14 points.
“We’re seeing enough spread offenses the last five to 10 years that the defenses are getting used to seeing it,” Shackelford said. “We’re seeing more exotic schemes, stunts and blitzes.”
Even with the improvement, it is unlikely a defense will be able to dominate like the 1980 Marietta team, which recorded five shutouts to open the season and did not allow more than 10 points in any game prior to the state quarterfinals.
As Rainge sees it, with teams becoming more proficient at reading the spread offenses, there may be a slow shift back to more traditional football.
“We’re going back to playing good defense and running the football,” he said. “With the defenses catching up, we’re slowly going back to seeing the fullback and the tight end having bigger roles in the offense.”
This year’s Lassiter team may be proving every point.
After allowing an average of 47.1 points per game in 2014, the Trojans have allowed a combines 26 to Hillgrove and Kell. In addition to the improved defensive play, Lassiter has unleashed Mason Waters, who has run for 260 yards over the first two games, averaging nearly 7 yards a carry.
Shackelford cautioned that offenses should be given a couple more weeks to work out any kinks they may have.
“It’s a combination of defenses and the offenses trying to get (their) groove,” he said. “It’s timing. It’s ball location. I’d like to think the offense will start scoring a little more soon.”