Perfecting the Position: Natchez secondary squad brought pestering style of defense to field
Published 12:05 am Monday, November 17, 2014
NATCHEZ — The Natchez Bulldogs’ secondary ran somewhat of a plug-and-play system in 2014.
Because of the vast skill players at hand, Natchez head coach Melvin Pete had many options to consider when placing certain defensive backs in the game, but regardless of who he placed on the gridiron, the results were similar.
“Really, we were trying to put the best 11 players we had on defense, but as far as the secondary goes, we used different strategies that involved different people, and we were able to be successful with it,” Pete said.
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The concepts were relatively simple in a pressure-heavy defensive scheme — play man on the outside, allowing athletes to be athletic. When it came down to stopping big, tall, lanky receivers like Ferriday’s J’Shon Foster or Laurel’s Octavious Cooley, Pete had to put some of his premium offensive talents on the defensive side of the ball, calling upon Sidney Davis and Ty Terrell, who are both under 6-feet-tall.
“We just had short, stocky guys trying to jam them up,” said Davis, cracking a smile. “Then, we had guys at the safety position behind us.”
Pete called it a pestering style of defense, hyping up his undersized defensive backs’ ability to play spoiler against larger receivers.
Davis, Terrell, Jardarrius Ivory, Chris Crockett, Trey Hall and Shavoke Herrington all made waves in the secondary this season, but Herrington went into the season as the least likely to contribute. As a true freshman, Herrington had to jump the learning curve to even have a shot at contributing. He did just that, and he was turning heads at practice right before the season started.
“I didn’t think I was even going to play,” Herrington said. “The week before the game, I got everything down, and Coach started bragging on me, so I kind of knew.”
In the Bulldogs’ first game of the season, Herrington produced two interceptions, including an interception returned for a touchdown in the win against Wilkinson County.
Herrington recorded two interceptions in each of his first three games and finished the season with seven of the Bulldogs’ 13 interceptions on the season.
“I would just say he’s a ballhawk,” Pete said. “Teams try to throw the ball deep on him sometimes, and some kind of way, he showed this innate ability to go up and make plays.”
Herrington credited the scheme for his stingy play on defense.
“They would let me roam around and when the ball goes up, I just go get it,” Herrington said.
Another unlikely contributor was Ivory, who missed all of last season because of a broken thumb. Using his plug-and-play method, Pete decided to put Ivory in a position to contribute at free safety, but later found that Ivory was capable of making better plays at cornerback.
“The last five games of the season I played cornerback, and I feel I’m better at that position than I am at safety,” Ivory said.
Meanwhile, Crockett was looking to build off of a freshman season similar to Herrington’s, making the most of his 2013 season by nabbing two interceptions. Crockett followed up that performance with even more playing time, contributing to Pete’s pestering attitude at cornerback. What Crockett believes he contributed to was the best secondary in the area, a unit that showed a lot of promise to build on in the years to come.
“I think we had a great secondary,” Crockett said. “We do have to learn to work together better at times though. Coach would tell us to work better on the field and have fun. That’s what we did, we had fun.”