Starkville QB to be biggest test yet for Gators’ defense

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 27, 2001

[11/27/01]Vicksburg High’s defensive bookends have made strides that even their coaches marvel at.

From the ninth-grade team a year ago, Rory Johnson and Ray Kline who play the “dog” linebacker position in the Gators’ five-man front have kept tabs on two elusive quarterbacks in the opening rounds of the playoffs.

Now, in the North State Championship, the dogs will be tested again, this time by one of the best around.

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“We have to keep outside containment,” Kline said. “As long as we can keep him from getting loose outside, we should be able to contain him.”

Starkville quarterback DeAngelo Danztler had 252 total yards against Warren Central. He’s at his best when he gets a

chance to get outside the pocket and scramble.

That’s where Johnson and Kline step in. The job of the dogs

is to harass, follow and hit the quarterback as often as possible. As the outside rushers, they are in charge of keeping the QB from getting loose.

Against Columbus star Chris Maddox, who came into the game with more than 1,400 yards of offense, Johnson hit him over and over, recorded a key safety late in the game and kept Maddox in check.

“Coach (Robert) Erves kept telling me I wasn’t hitting the quarterback enough,” Johnson said. “We’ll have to put pressure on the Starkville quarterback like we’ve done so far.”

Johnson and Kline held Madison Central’s Dillon Sudduth to 13 yards passing and 11 yards rushing as MC was limited to 90 total yards.

“He was hit that game more than in any other,” first-year VHS linebackers coach David Tadlock said. “We really thought we had to take the quarterback from Madison out because in the game they played against Greenville, he literally willed that win.”

Johnson and Kline, as well as junior Justin Randle, started their progression soon after the current coaching staff took over.

Tadlock, who played on three state championship teams at John Curtis (New Orleans) and has coached on the high school and college level, was promoted from the ninth-grade team.

A new 3-4 defense was implemented in May, but Tadlock had trouble getting through to his young linebackers.

“I knew it would be easier to teach for them to see it than just to hear about it,” Tadlock said. ” … Those three were the only ones in spring and summer that had to learn something new.”

So he called University of Michigan defensive coordinator Jim Hemman, who recruits this area, and a member of his staff from John Curtis.

“I asked them for anything they had from when they ran Bo Schembechler’s angle defense,” Tadlock said. “They boxed up about eight tapes and sent them to us.”

Even with the extra help, Johnson and Kline had trouble grasping the system early. Coaches would routinely chew them out, but each one stuck with it.

“Most of the time they would make the adjustments, but some times, because they’re young, their heads would be down,” said senior linebacker Tim Brown, the leader of the defense. “Now they are catching hold of it.

“They are like seniors now and it makes it easier knowing I don’t have to chase the quarterback sideline-to-sideline.”

The Gators lose four key defenders after this season and will rely on the “dogs” heavily next season.

For now, both Kline and Johnson said they will have butterflies Friday night, but one thing will get the jitters out.

“All it’s going to take is one big hit,” Kline said. “Then, we’ll be ready to roll.”