Secondary nature, Iowa finds right pieces for defensive backfield

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Iowa started the high school football season with a mostly new bunch in the defensive secondary.

Now the Yellow Jackets have a hardened, physical group as they head into the first semifinal game in program history.

“Coming in, we knew that we were going to have to move some guys around and take us a little while to figure out what they were best at because we had some new faces there,” Iowa head coach Tommy Johns said. “It is kind of like that every year, especially in the secondary. You move them around to find out where they are the most comfortable, and we have done that all year.”

Email newsletter signup

Leading the group are senior Makel Montgomery and junior Joe Natali. Montgomery, a bruising 6-foot, 188-pound cornerback, had 83 tackles to two interceptions, while Natali made 67 tackles and three interceptions.

“Joe brings a lot of experience,” Johns said. “He is communicating a lot better now, and he understands what to do. He has speed. The biggest thing this year is he has been filling the alley with a purpose. He will strike you as quickly as he will cover. (Montgomery) is big and physical. He has created a lot of turnovers for us this year. Makel is a three-year starter back there as well, so he has a lot of experience.”

The three newcomers, senior free safety Kendrick Jasmine, junior cornerback Jacques Batiste and sophomore strong safety Cohen Charles, have combined for 158 tackles and 19 broken-up passes.

“Kendrick is very smart and watches a lot of film,” Johns said. “He does a good job, especially on the weekends. Some people just want to go hang out, but he is watching film and constantly asking questions and looking for the little things that the offense will give to you.

“(Batiste) has come a long way for us. He is on both of our sprint relays that ran in the state track meet and won the 4×200. He has a lot of speed and recovers well. (Charles) has been a pleasant surprise for us. Cohen has had a phenomenal year at strong safety. He probably has seven or eight sacks this year and eight or nine pbu. His older brother, Darius Daniels, played for us. He has a lot of Darius in him.”

The secondary has created more than half of the Yellow Jackets’ 20 turnovers and will need to come up with some Friday against the No. 5 North DeSoto Griffins.

“Our guys fly around and do a good job of creating turnovers, and that is what we are going to have to do on Friday,” Johns said.

The group will tangle with the Griffins receiver trio of Cole Cory, Landon Falls and Sam Odem and quarterback Luke Delafield who has thrown for 2,119 yards and 34 touchdowns. But the Griffins can run the ball too.

“They have three different guys they get the ball to, and they have two running backs,” Johns said. “That makes them even more difficult to stop. We are going to have to mix it up. You can’t sit there in the same thing all night long. We try to create problems with our front four, and that alleviates a lot of pressure off those guys in the back in.”