The Dowagiac defense has been putting up some pretty impressive numbers this season. It will be counted on as the Chieftains head into the post season. (Leader photo/File)

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‘D’ stands for defense in Dowagiac

Published 4:30pm Tuesday, October 23, 2012

In Dowagiac, everyone likes to say that the ‘D’ stands for defense.

That couldn’t be any more true than this season.

Coaches like to say that ‘defense wins championships.’ That also is true because Dowagiac rode a stingy defense to the Wolverine Conference West Division championship and its first undefeated regular season since 1996.

Along the way, the Chieftains have dominated nearly all of their opponents.

Dowagiac gave up just 62 points (6.8 per game). Opponents rushed for a grand total of 658 yards (73.1 per game) and threw for 853 yards (94.7 per game).

Dowagiac forced 24 turnovers — 13 fumbles and 11 interceptions and had a turnover margin of plus-14.

Defensive coordinator Pat Lyle said that it’s about being physical, aggressive and fast.

“We’ve had some good kids here in the past and we’ve had some good defenses that haven’t been as fortunate as these guys have been,” he said. “But I tell you what, these guys come to work every day. It’s a great group to be around. It’s a fun group to coach.”

The defense, which has forced 34 three-and-out series this season, is led by senior linebackers D.J. Hunt and Brett Scanlon. Hunt is the team’s leading tackler with 69 stops, including 11 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks. Scanlon has 56 stops with four being for a loss.

Dowagiac’s secondary, which doesn’t get a lot of credit, is led by senior Derek Stark and junior Shane Bevins. Stark leads the Chieftains with four interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown. Bevins is second in the team in tackles with 60 and had a pair of fumble recoveries.

Along the defensive line, junior Carl Grant is the leader with his 48 tackles, including 13 for loss and a pair of forced fumbles.

“This group is smart on the field,” Lyle said. “They fly around and hit people and they help me out a lot too. I’ve got guys coming off the field and saying ‘hey coach, I know when they do this, we are going to run that.’ It’s like I have 11 coaches on the field helping me. This is a special group of kids.”

Lyle also noted that if this team is not the fastest defense he has coached at Dowagiac, it is among the fastest.

“We’ve had some pretty quick teams in the past here, but I tell you, we have good speed pretty much across the board. All 11 guys can run. That’s one of the first things we told them day one of practice. If you can’t run, you can’t play defense.”

Dowagiac’s defense will be called upon again Friday when it has its rematch against Otsego in the opening round of the Division 4 playoffs.

The Chieftains allowed the Bulldogs just 63 yards in total offense, including a mere 21 yards rushing in the second half last week. Dowagiac was also plus-three in the turnover department against Otsego.

Friday night’s game at Chris Taylor-Alumi Field is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

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