Every once in a while I come up with a decent idea for our weekly @NBCSPreps live Twitter segment— like this week's topic: “What are the top defenses that are still alive in the IHSA state playoff field?”
However, sometimes these "great" ideas become a bit harder the longer you look at them. This was definitely the case with this week's segment.
While we only are allowed to list 13 teams for consideration for these segments (due to space restrictions) I came up with at least a handful of other teams who also could make the final cut of what was shown on the big board.
Look, any team that makes it to the second round of the playoffs is good and they, more than likely, have a good defense.
But in my mind, it's much more than just points allowed that separates the very good from the great defenses.
For me, a great defense is a mindset. It's an attitude. A swagger. And they’re all present in that unit's play for each down.
Warren Township’s entire defense plays with a mindset and a mentality that they are going to destroy everyone in front of them. And over the past two years in particular, in more cases than not, the Blue Devils defense has succeeded. Sure, Warren has also has its share of marquee names, starting with Iowa State commit DT Willis Singleton Jr., senior LB Juan Delacruz and junior LB Malachi McNeal. That said, the unit as a whole here is simply stronger than the individual parts.
There are several other top teams left in Class 8A that are right there with the top defenses across the state. Take Loyola.
The Ramblers also take on that same mindset and the personality mentioned above. Loyola coach John Holocek has a defense that, year in and year our, keep them in every game this season. The consistency over the years has been something to behold.
Lincoln-Way East head coach Rob Zvonar just seems to reload year in and year out with a brand new group of talented, speedy and highly intelligent kids on the Griffins‘ defense. Of course, having elite talent helps. East features two D-1 defensive ends in Adrain Wilson (Bowling Green) and Sean McLaughlin (Northwestern). The remainder of the Griffins’ defense is more kids who are simply blue collar types— unheralded names who just show up and grind week in and week out.
Then there is Glenbard West. Chad Hetlet's defense is nicknamed “The Hitters.” What else do you need to know? The Hitters play with a combination of speed and physicality you just don't see very often. When Hetlet's defense performs to his lofty standards, you can guarantee football in Glen Ellyn well into late November.
While South Elgin (9-1) is still searching for respect from a rankings standpoint (keep those emails and DM's coming, fans) and while head coach Dragan Teonic teams have been more known for having a wide open offense, the Storm's defense in 2019 has been equally as strong than the offense. If you allow just 45 points in 10 games like the South Elgin defense has, I couldn’t care less about the teams you’ve played. Your defense is exceptional.
In Class 7A alone you have teams such as Phillips, Mount Carmel, Willowbrook and Lake Zurich who all feature terrific defenses week in and week out. In Class 6A, while downstate Glenwood (10-0) has an offense that seems to get the hype, did you realize that the Titans ‘D has allowed just 105 points in 10 games so far this season?
We can debate this all day and night long and that's fine. But all I know is that teams with the best defenses will be holding first place trophies on Thanksgiving weekend at NIU.