The Mint Hill Times

Stephan Amoah (No. 44) and Ozzie Sombo (No. 5) are two stars on a defense loaded with great players. (Photo by Mark Sward at swardpics.com)

Butler vs. Vance 7:30 at Bulldog Stadium

The Butler Bulldogs’ football team currently has a 29-game winning streak. They are the defending 4AA state champions, and are in the driver’s seat to repeat this season. While the Bulldogs have been putting up big point totals lately, it’s the tone the defensive unit sets each game that intimidates their opponents.
“We just stay focused,” says linebacker Stephan Amoah. “We don’t take any opponent lightly, no matter what their record is.”
Showing up for games and playing hard is not the only objective for Butler’s defensive players. It takes a lot of work in practice during each week to prepare for opponents. The players must learn formations and individual assignments for each play. After three hours of practice on the field there are film sessions in order to see the opponents’ tendencies in live action. These Bulldog defenders do their homework.
“Their goal is to shut down whoever we’re playing,” Head Coach Mike Newsome says. “They take great pride dominating an opponent. Coach Shaughnessy our defensive coordinator and our defensive coaches do a tremendous job game planning each week. On top of that we have great talent on the field.”
The Mt. Tabor Spartans had a 39-point scoring average this season. Butler held them to 14. Richmond Senior averaged 35 points per game. The Bulldogs held them to 28. By the way, that was in eight quarters, and one of Richmond’s scores came on special teams. Providence scored an average of 31 points this season. Butler kept the Panthers off the scoreboard, a shut-out in a game that was for first place in the conference. Independence, although in a rebuilding year, did average over three touchdowns per game. The Bulldogs held them to six points.
Every opponent Butler has played this year has been held significantly under their scoring average. All 14 teams have been unable to do against Butler what they were able to do to other competition.
Butler’s trademark 3-4 formation is led upfront by defensive ends Colin Parsons and Grant Polofsky, with Josh LaPlant filling the middle. Peter Kalambayi and Stephan Amoah are the starting inside linebackers. The outside LBs are Ozzy Sombo and Kris Frost, two of the best not only in the state, but the nation. Frost will represent Butler in the Army All-American Bowl in January. Butler’s secondary has shut down every passing attack they’ve faced this season.
Mark Bridges, Dominique Brewer, Clinton Bobray, Mal Jenkins, and Austin Stewart are the key starters in the defensive backfield.
“We’re not trying to be super heroes out there,” says Stewart. “We know our assignments so we all attack and go hard with it.”
The Bulldogs’ opponents are averaging 11 points per game, an impressive statistic. Last year’s Butler squad gave up 14.8 points per game, but some local high school football purists are comparing this Butler defense to Independence’s 2004 state championship team. That Patriot unit held opponents to 8.8 points per game on their way to a 17-0 season.
If this year’s Butler squad has a weakness, it may be giving up the big play. Eight of the touchdowns the Bulldogs have allowed this year have been longer than 50 yards.
As the box scores show, those big plays are few and far between the dominance that Butler executes each week. An old football adage says the best offense is a good defense, and sometimes vice-versa. Butler’s defense consistently gives its offense the ball in good field position, many times putting points on the board themselves.
“Coach says he needs people to step up,” says Dominique Brewer. “So I’ve gotta step up and make plays for the team.”
Although Brewer does not play offense, he has scored three touchdowns in Butler’s last five games.