Middle Men: John Tyler LBs At Center Of Dominant ‘D' By HAROLD WILSON
December 2, 2010John Tyler Football
John Tyler's linebackers like being in the middle of things, the same place they line up.
JT's starting trio of seniors Antjuan Lee, Davontaye Kennedy and Arthur Sash play big roles on the Lions' stop unit, combing for nine of the team's 46 takeaways through 13 games, and representing three of the team's top seven tacklers.
In JT's 4-3 scheme, Lee lines up in the middle, Kennedy on the weakside, and Sash on the strongside.
"We're about laying wood and making plays," said Kennedy, who has made 15 consecutive starts for the Lions. "We're the heart of the defense."
All three linebackers have three takeaways to their credit. Lee leads the unit with 87 tackles and five pass breakups.
"We're all about tackles and making plays for our defense," said Lee, who has recovered two fumbles and intercepted a pass. "We've been able to get this far because of staying focused, playing hard, reading our keys."
Added Sash: "We practice hard, play hard, and stay together as a team."
Kennedy tops the backers with three interceptions, and ranks third on the team behind safety Triston Wade and Lee in tackles with 78. Kennedy came on strong to make several key tackles last week as Carrollton Newman Smith repeatedly challenged JT with its 200-pound bruising back.
The three all provide something unique: Kennedy (5-10, 180) the speed and toughness; Lee (5-11, 235) the prototypical size and strength; and Sash (6-1, 195) the athleticism and range.
"Kennedy is the brave one, the one taking all the body shots and playing fast," Lee said. "Sash is the quiet one. But he's out there doing his job."
Lee leads the defense, and team, with three years of varsity experience. Kennedy gained experience last year after leading tackler Alvin Arps suffered a season-ending injury in the area round, moving him into the starting lineup the next two weeks.
Together the two take slack off Sash, who started the year playing sparingly before taking over the starting job. He intercepted passes in two of JT's two biggest games -- attendance-wise -- against Robert E. Lee and Whitehouse.
"Kennedy stepped up last year; and Antjuan is a vet, and he takes on a lot of blocks," Sash said. "I'm out there trying to play fast."
No team topped the 17-point barrier on JT the first 11 games. The Lions allowed 58 points the past two weeks, a number they want to lower in Friday's state quarterfinal game at Wylie.
"In the playoffs a lot of (teams) are coming out with a high tempo," Lee said. "We're practicing on keeping the point-total back down and doing our responsibilities."
Wylie's balanced attack averaging 368 yards (195 passing), means JT, and the linebackers in particular, must come prepared, and start faster than last week when it fell in a 14-point hole in the first quarter against Carrollton Newman Smith.
"Long story short, we have to go live or go home. That's the new motto," Kennedy said. "We can't come out like we did last week or it's going to be the end of our season."
Lee looked at it the simple way: get off the field as soon as possible and let a JT attack averaging 39.7 points in the playoffs do its thing.
"We have to tackle and make plays," Lee said. "That's the main key -- to stop their offense, get our offense the ball and continue on our journey to state."