By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on September 8, 2011 1:49 PM
With a confident smile Rosewood senior defensive lineman Matt Younts needed just one word to describe the way the Eagles' defense has played over the past two weeks -- ruthless.
After allowing 27 points in the final two quarters of a 33-14 season-opening loss at Charles B. Aycock, Rosewood has not surrendered a point during its last eight quarters. The Eagles (2-1 overall) shut out Wake Christian and Midway in their last two games. The stout 'D' has forced eight turnovers during that stretch.
An admittedly-tired Rosewood defense allowed a short pass to turn into a 67-yard touchdown late in the third quarter at Aycock. An 11-play, 78-yard Golden Falcons' touchdown drive and a back-breaking touchdown set up by an Eagles' turnover sealed Aycock's victory. The experience sent Rosewood back to work on the practice field and served as motivation for the dominating defensive performances it has turned in the past two weeks.
"We're finally coming together out of the four years we've been here," said Younts. "I guess it's time to shine. We've learned from our mistakes and we're starting to pick up on it. Against Midway, we were ruthless. We've been physical up front and fast. You've got to play at a high tempo."
Leading 7-0 late in the game at Wake Christian, the Eagles dug in after the Bulldogs marched 56 yards in plays to the Rosewood 11-yard line. Wake Christian appeared to score on a touchdown pass with less than a minute remaining, but the play was called back on a penalty. The Eagles' responded with sacks on consecutive plays from Younts and Taylor McGill to end the drive.
Rosewood took over on downs and ran out the clock.
"That gave us a lot of confidence," said senior defensive back Corey Dickerson. "After I thought they scored a touchdown it was kind of like a down moment, but when I saw the flag I knew we had to make one more play and we went and got it."
Using its 50-front defense exclusively against Midway last week, Rosewood forced seven turnovers in a 25-0 victory. Head coach Robert Britt and his coaching staff noticed different formations on film that made the Raiders predictable in certain situations. The Eagles' five linemen -- defensive ends Taylor McGill and Shaquan Taylor, tackles Jacob Guthrie and Joshua Clark and Younts at nose guard -- allowed senior linebackers Greg Cavenaugh and Will Winslow to flow freely and make plays.
Midway lost three fumbles, had two passes intercepted, turned the ball over on downs twice and was held to 142 yards of offense.
"That 50-front opens up gaps," said Cavenaugh. "The linemen do their job and it opens up a hole for the linebackers to penetrate. When Midway made mistakes we were just able to capitalize. We're a different team with different motivation. We come out every day to practice and we've got one thing on our mind and that's to win."
Rosewood's performance defensively during the first three weeks has been a welcomed change from 2010 in which it surrendered 25.3 points per game. Opponents scored 34 points or more five times a year ago, putting enormous pressure on the Eagles' offense to keep Rosewood in most of its ballgames. A year later, sustained drives by the offense, forced turnovers defensively and a shorter field to work with for the offense has erased most of that pressure.
Rosewood's streak of eight consecutive scoreless quarters could be challenged Friday night when North Stokes (3-0) visits Branch Pope Field. The Vikings have scored 100 points in their first three games of the season and are averaging close to 431 yards of total offense. Running back Dillon Rogers has rushed for 497 yards and five touchdowns on 62 carries.