Defense wins championships: Grand Lake learns fast after Oberlin loss

Rodrick Anderson

Oct. 22 was a wake-up call for Grand Lake’s defense.

The Hornets gave up a season-high 272 rushing yards to Oberlin and lost 28-14. But the Hornets haven’t lost since, and find themselves a win away from a state championship.

“With not having spring and not having a true fall camp, I think it took a little bit,” Grand Lake head coach Jeff Wainwright said. “When we looked at the Oberlin loss, you have to play a good team and get exposed to figure out how you are going to fix it.

“Oberlin identified some of our problems that we were getting away with earlier in the year, and the coaches and players did a good job of humbly accepting that, and things started getting better.”

The Hornets haven’t allowed more than 200 yards rushing since the Oberlin game and have held opponents to fewer than eight points in four consecutive games.

Pete Picou, who was Perry Laland’s defensive coordinator in the 1990s at South Cameron, has helped mold the Hornets defense over the last two seasons as a volunteer coach, Wainwright said.

“Coach Picou has done a really good job,” Wainwright said. “He is a close family friend.

“When I came to Grand Lake, he told me he would come help me. He is fighting with those boys every day. I hope I can do that when I am his age. His love of the game and love of defense has really spurred these boys and how they play. Everything just takes off from there.”

The Hornets’ strength is the five-man front in nose guard Bryant Williams, tackles Cole Castille and Coleman McCready and ends Kobe Taylor and Bryson Aguillard, plus linebackers Grant Trahan and Cole Matt.

“I think when you look at the whole box — the inside group — they are really tough from defensive ends to the linebackers,” Wainwright said “It is tough to run the ball right at them. What happens is the ball ends up bouncing, the speed ends up catching up to the opponent, and we are able to chase it down. The big three and the linebackers take care of all the inside gaps and eat them up.”

In the secondary is cornerbacks Levi Murrell and Kyler Little and safeties Kent Zaunbrecher and Nathaniel Murrell.

“Their ball skills are really good,” Wainwright said. “A lot of times when people throw the ball up, we catch it, or we are knocking it down. It just makes it hard for people to throw routes at them.”Grand Lake has upped its game in the playoffs. The Hornets have not allowed a playoff opponent to reach double-digits, allowing 6.7 points per game after surrendering an average of 19.2 in the regular season.

Rick Hickman / American Press