Just how far have the Deerfield-Windsor Knights come since that stormy August night that started the 2009 campaign?
Last Friday, we learned the answer to that question. The Knights advanced to the state semifinals with a 35-21 victory over First Presbyterian Day. This was the best game played by any DWS team since last season’s upset of Tattnall Square in the state semifinals.
Every facet of the game was well managed, and extremely well coached. Head coach Allen Lowe designed and executed a brilliant game plan. With his starting quarterback Banks Kinslow sideline in the Knight’s opening round contest against Mount Vernon, Lowe unveiled a Wildcat formation with star tailback Tony Zenon getting the direct snap.
A good chess move as FPD came into the second round contest crowding the line dedicated to containing the lighting. Even still, Zenon scorched them for two touchdown dashes of 51 and 57 yards, and gained 162 in total.
Incidentally, Lowe never used the Wildcat set against FPD. He showed it to them on film, then in the week between rounds, went back to basics. For his part, Kinslow played a gutsy game on a tender knee. With the Vikings crowding the line he threw for 118 yards and two touchdowns, and carried the ball five times on the Knight’s 86-yard, six minute drive. Twice he dove for fourth down conversions to keep the drive going.
An offense that has become very dependent on those bolts that leave 10 offensive players and the stands watching in amazement while No. 1 streaks away from 11 defenders chasing a ghost, turned into a physical grunt and push ball control team. Fullback Quinton Adkins slammed into the middle. Justin Webb jetted off tackle. Kinslow dove. Zenon from the eye. Run after run after run. The crack of the pads, then let’s do it again.
On the final play of the drive, the Knights lined up on the 15. Kinslow set Zenon in motion then took the snap. Zenon swooped by for the handoff. The Vikings chased the ghost. When Kinslow pulled the ball away from Lightning the entire FPD defense had already committed, and he hit a wide open Webb in the middle of the end zone to break the back of the Vikings.
Which brings me to excellent coaching job, phase two.
At the DWS prep rally on Friday, assistant coach Craig Rhodes called Zenon and junior tackle Trent Brown out in front of the student body.
Then he began to read quotes posted by FPD players on the Vent web site. He turned to Zenon and said “they say you don’t like getting hit.” The students went nuts. Zenon just grinned.
Next Rhodes turned to Brown.
At 6’8” and 285 pounds, Brown has all the tools to be the greatest player to ever suit up in the GISA. If he would apply himself he could play for any D-1 college in the country, and if he really dug deep he could play on Sundays.
His tools are that good. He just needs some help getting those tools out of the box and putting them to use. It has been a struggle to make the big fella understand exactly what he could do if properly motivated. Or it was, until Rhodes saw that post on the Vent.
Looking up at Brown, Rhodes poked him and said, “They said you are soft and slow!” The student body went nuts. Brown did not grin. For five long days he had seen that quote posted on bulletin boards, lockers and doors. The jabs emerged on the Monday prior to the FPD game, and that afternoon at practice a DWS coach was riding the seven man sled while Brown was firing out. The coach kept yelling, “They think you are soft!”
Brown would rattle the sled. Then again. “They think you are slow!” Brown had heard enough. He unloaded a forearm on the sled lifting it off the ground and breaking the steel bracing which holds the padding. The sled fell to the ground as the coaching staff and team stood silent in awe.
Rhodes had found his button.
Friday night, after five days of hearing it, Brown came out of his shell. Prior to a crucial third and long for the Vikings, defensive coach Rod Murray put the big guy in the game. Middle linebacker Rhett Cooper had been working overtime chasing down two big FPD running backs, but found the strength to start screaming in Brown’s face. Then another Knight did the same. Then another.
FPD broke the huddle. Brown lined up at nose guard. When the ball was snapped he exploded through a 6’2” 230 pound center, lifting his feet off the ground like he was a paper doll and carried him backwards as fast as the signal caller could retreat. Rather than be smothered by more than 600 pounds of beef, the FPD quarterback rushed his throw to the flat, and Webb was there to intercept.
Then came those critical fourth-down conversions on that 86-yard march. Each time, Lowe moved Brown from tackle down to guard, allowing the hobbled Kinslow to take the snap and follow the big guy forward.
Judging from the way this team played against FPD and the way the coaches put the right players in the right spots at the right time, the Knights have come far enough to turn that talent rich but raw team into a complete unit, and the squad to beat in the Georgia Independent School Association.
By Mike Flynn