Eddies’ defense leads the way

Published 3:56 pm Sunday, November 14, 2010

novakThey say that defense wins championships and offense sells tickets.

Edwardsburg has done both in its run to the Division 4 state semifinals.

The Eddies are playing great defense, allowing just 150 points through 12 games, and its offense is putting up big numbers – both in points scored and yardage gained.

That formula worked again Friday night as Edwardsburg traveled about 150 miles to knock off Lansing Sexton to win the school’s first regional title.

The Eddies’ offense rolled up 403 yards in total offense, including 393 on the ground and dominated the time of possession. But when it counted most with the game on the line, it was the Edwardsburg defense that stepped up and shined the brightest.

After the Eddies had taken a 35-28 lead against the Big Reds, it was their defense was called upon to win the football game. Edwardsburg responded to the challenge, stopping Lansing Sexton on its final three drives, forcing a punt on each one and actually holding a very powerful offense to a minus 35 yards in the final quarter.

The Eddies have been able to score the last two seasons with its Wing-T offense, but last year Edwardsburg had trouble stopping people and wound up on the wrong end of a 4-5 record.

Changes had to be made and Eddies’ head coach Kevin Bartz didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger.

He installed second year assistant Randy Brooks, who helped coach Dowagiac to a state title in 1990, as the defensive coordinator. The move has paid off as Brooks’ defense has been aggressive and stout against a variety of offenses.

On the other side of the ball, offensive coordinator A.J. Gaideski has dialed up a winning formula by mixing up his running backs with runs by quarterback Ethan Zimmerman and an occasional pass play.

That worked to near perfection Friday night in Lansing. The Eddies foursome of running backs —Austin Stinnett, Lee Williamson, Adam Kendall and Michael Kempton — shared the ball well and each were successful in toting the pigskin.

Zimmerman ended up the leading rusher, whose 66-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter tied the game and sparked the Eddies. He also ran for a 29-yard touchdown on Edwardsburg’s opening drive and threw for a 10-yard touchdown when everyone in the stadium was expecting a run.

The Eddies are a mere two steps away from a state championship and are one win away from playing in Detroit at Ford Field.

I can absolutely see Edwardsburg moving on to the final and competing for the state championship. Can they win it? Who knows. Would I be surprised to see them win the next two games for the school’s first state football title? Not a bit.

I covered Dowagiac on its run to the state championship. The Chieftains were dominant in the post season the same way the Eddies have been. Their offense couldn’t have been more different, but on the defensive side of the football I see a lot of similarities.

I also see the same passion, heart and desire for this Edwardsburg team that was displayed by Dowagiac on its title run. There is also one other similarity that I see. I see a group of kids that are smart, care about each other and have the will to win.

I look forward to seeing what happens next week in the semifinals. Plus, if the Eddies win and advance to the championship game, it gives me the perfect excuse to finally make my way to Ford Field for the first time.

Scott Novak is sports editor of Leader Publications. He can be reached at scott.novak@leaderpub.com