Experienced Defense Has Northside Christian Rolling

We expected their defense to be pretty solid. At the Spring E7TC and Xecutives, we saw the defensive leaders of Northside Christian show up and play some good ball, but we didn’t expect them to shut Seffner Christian out in the first round of the playoffs, and start playing their best defensive ball of the season going into the second round.

Northside Christian's Tah'Shim Knight has been a defensive leader for the Mustangs.
Northside Christian’s Tah’Shim Knight has been a defensive leader for the Mustangs.

The Mustangs are set to take on Cambridge Christian tonight, who averages about 40 points per game, while the Mustangs, on average, give up 17. How will the offense and defense coexist?

“Cambridge is a good football team with a lot of good players,” said Northside Christian defensive coordinator Jeremy Campbell. “However, I feel that if we contain the quarterback, who’s killed people all year long, we have a shot. That’s what we couldn’t do last year, and that’s why we lost.”

Northside Christian has had an interesting, but successful road to the 2A playoffs, after knocking off First Baptist Academy (who made it to the Regional Semi-Finals in 2015), on the road, but then lost to Victory Christian Academy. The Mustangs only loss came to Trenton (the reigning 1A state champion). Those losses were the only time that the Mustang defense gave up more than 40 points. If you take those two games out of the equation, the defense has been solid.

“When we watched the Trenton game on film, we just didn’t line up correctly to counter their Wing-T offense, and when you can’t line up against that offense, you’re gonna get gassed. We also had some injuries that didn’t help things. Against Victory Christian, our two corners went down. We were playing both of those games with backups.”

Last season, Northside Christian only gave up 18.3 points in their ten contests. The consistency is there, and it’s something Campbell attributes to the experience of the defense. “We have ten seniors with us, so they’ve all gone through all of the offseason workouts and they know the system. I’m just making the calls. They’re making the plays when they need to,” Campbell said.

Talking about making plays, sophomore CB Jhi’Aire Huff came up with two interceptions against Seffner Christian last Friday. He had a third in his grasp, but he dropped it. Those helped preserve the 35-0 shutout. The future of the defense, from what it looks like, is pretty bright. “Obviously, we’re going to have some holes to fill. We’ve got a good middle school program and some depth among the underclassmen. It’ll take a lot of time and a lot of work over the offseason to run our complex defense.”

According to Campbell, the core of the defense is made up of three Xecutives from the offseason, DE Cam’Ron Fowler, LB Tah’shim Knight, and CB Demetrius Jackson. “Cam’Ron is our pure pass rusher, and I think he’s got ten sacks or so on the season, even though he’s missed a couple of games. Knight is a four year starter, he makes the calls and checks and will be very hard to replace. Demetrius led the state in interceptions last year, but people aren’t throwing towards him as much, but he’s still playing at a high level and making plays. They are all very athletic, very smart players, they play to compete, and they’re going to be missed.”

“We’ve improved quite a bit over the season, at first, it was a ton of individuals playing defense, it was more about who was going to make the play rather than playing together. We finally started playing together, which has been great. I don’t even have to say much to them anymore because of the seniors that we have on our team. They have to compete because for those seniors, they’re not going to have another shot.”

The Mustangs host Cambridge Christian tonight in the second round of the playoffs, where last year, they lost 19-14.