12/08/06 — Tiger defense faces toughest challenge of season

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Tiger defense faces toughest challenge of season

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on December 8, 2006 1:47 PM

WARSAW -- Ken Avent Jr. recants the first day when he met James Kenan's senior football players.

He asked them about their goals and every player answered with the same reply -- win a state championship.

Now the Tigers have their shot.

Eastern champion James Kenan opposes the state's top-ranked team and the reigning Associated Press and NCPreps.com player of the year -- Quan Worley -- on Saturday. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound tailback has compiled nearly 7,000 yards in his three-year varsity career to go along with 74 touchdowns combined during his junior and senior campaigns.

"We've definitely got our hands full, but we're going to try to win the game, which is our goal coming up here," said Avent Jr. "We're not just happy because we're here (in the final). We want to win and do the things it takes to win."

The Tigers must contain Worley and force Thomasville into long-yardage situations on second- and third-down plays.

"They block well up front," said Avent Jr. "They like to play a ball-control offense, but they will throw it some."

Avent Jr. is confident in his defense, which is directed by younger brother John. The Tigers have surrendered just four touchdowns in four playoff games and have posted a plus-3 turnover ratio.

Senior linebacker Alex Flores has emerged the team's top tackler with 66 solo stops and 53 assists. Josh Hicks has recorded 58 tackles and 58 assists, while Akheim Faison has 58 tackles and 64 assists.

Darius Hand and Keon Wilson, two of the Tigers' biggest tacklers, have combined for five sacks.

"John and Lee Pate both do a great job with our defense and they have them ready to play," said Avent Jr. "They've done a great job. It helps us offensively because I call the offense, and there are times when we're not moving the ball.

"If you can punt it, we've got a good chance of stopping them or getting the ball back (on a turnover) ... so far. I don't know what will happen Saturday."

Kenan must avoid turnovers.

While playing a two-time state champion and facing a heralded running back like Warley can jostle a team's nerves, Avent Jr. is also contending with another task.

James Kenan is playing away from the friendly confines of Bill Taylor Field -- the site of 10 home victories this season.

"We'll talk about getting them used to playing in a different environment," said Avent Jr. "Wallace was a big week for them and they got through that, so I think they'll respond.

"They really believe they have a chance to (win the state championship)."

Will the defense lead the way?