10/18/12 — Defense has become unbeaten Tigers' calling card

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Defense has become unbeaten Tigers' calling card

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on October 18, 2012 1:49 PM

James Kenan's offense has performed beyond expectations so far in 2012.

The Tigers have a pair of star tailbacks in Ja'Quan Williams and Marcelias Sutton and a fleet-footed quarterback in Dominique Barnes that have lit up the scoreboard en route to an 8-0 start.

But the defense may even be better.

James Kenan is leading the Tri-County 1-A Conference in points allowed this season and the Tigers have recorded shutouts in three of the their last four contests, including a 30-0 win over Midway last week.

The Tigers have allowed just 26 points in five conference games.

"The biggest key for our defense over the last month has been getting guys back healthy," James Kenan head coach Ken Avent Jr. said. "We have had some guys improve over the course of the season and now we have the depth that we need to be successful."

Even when it looked like the Raiders were going to get on the scoreboard late in the first quarter, it was the Tigers' defense that made play. Williams intercepted a Midway pass in the red zone and raced 99 yards for a touchdown.

Midway was never close to scoring again.

"That was a huge play to set the tone for us," Avent Jr. said. "It looked like Midway was going to go in and take the lead, and Ja'Quan made a nice play on the ball and turned it into a big play."

James Kenan has a rare advantage over many of its opponents in the 1-A ranks. The Tigers use very few two-way starters which allows for defensive players to rest while the run-first offense chews up the clock.

Williams, Sutton and TK Owens are the exceptions. The trio of playmakers rarely comes off the field.

"Having good numbers and good depth helps us a lot late in the game," Avent Jr. said. "We can move guys around and get fresh guys in the game at times which allows some of our starters to rest."

So far through eight games Juan Hooper leads the James Kenan defense with 34 tackles and two fumble recoveries. Owens and Samuel Melvin each have recorded 24 tackles on the season. Baird Kilpatrick has a team-high 3 1/2 sacks and two fumble recoveries.

James Kenan plays host to Heide Trask on Friday night.

"I think our kids know that we are not in a position to overlook anybody," Avent Jr. said. "We were undefeated in the conference last season when we went to Trask and they played us close, so I think our guys will remember that and be ready to go from the opening kickoff."

Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.