by Malcolm Butler
How good was the Cedar Creek defense in 2021?
During head coach Matt Middleton’s first year with the program, the Cougars set program records for fewest points allowed on their way to a berth in the Division IV playoffs.
And Middleton is quick to give credit where credit is due.
“Mark Ware is one of the best defensive minds in high school football,” said Middleton.
As Creek buses its way to Sterlington this afternoon for a 6 p.m. scrimmage featuring the defending 3A state title Panthers and the Rayville Hornets, Middleton knows that the Cougars lost of key components from last year’s group.
However, he also knows he returns his entire starting secondary.
“I think the biggest thing for us is we have a ton of experience on the back end,” said Middleton. “We have almost everybody back on the back end. We replaced our linebacker crew and pretty much the front four. The great thing is Coach Ware has been with these kids a long time. There has been a lot of continuity in scheme. To be honest you really don’t know until you get out there and the fur hits the fan as far as who wants a piece and who doesn’t. That’s kind of where we are at right now.”
Names like Lane Thomas and Ladd Thompson should be heard plenty over the PA speaker this fall, on both sides of the football. But the dynamic duo will form a talented one-two punch at safety for the Cougars.
“Lane (Thomas) is playing phenomenal right now,” said Middleton. “He looks really good and is in great shape. He is our core to our back end. We got Ladd (Thompson) back at safety. We moved Lane back to safety.
“You have Garrett Garlington at one corner who is doing some really, really good stuff. You have Austin Webb at the other corner. A lot of experience back there. Parker Newman and some other guys that are vying for time right now. We feel really good depth wise there.
“We moved Garlington back to corner. He is healthy and having a really good camp. Last year had a freak injury and just never could get him going. He actually started for us the year before. Having him back has been really, really good. He has some veteran leadership. Doesn’t talk a whole lot. He just plays.”
While the back end is experienced, the second level of defense for the Cougars — the linebacker corps — is a little less of a veteran group. However, Middleton is eager to see how they respond in today’s scrimmage as they continue to jell.
“We are young (at linebacker),” said Middleton. “Inexperienced. Lawson Lillo is the only starter coming back. Gray Worthey has gotten some good reps. You have Reagan Pike. You have Owen Robinson. And a couple of others sprinkled in there that are doing a good job. We will find out real quick. Sterlington will run down hill and get after us running the option. They will run some spread stuff too so they will be more of a multiple team. We will have a tall test early.”
One things Middleton is sure of and that is the Cougars won’t be out-coached on that side of the football.
“Mark will mix it up,” said Middleton. “We base out of zone. But he will heat you up a little bit. He will get after you. There is a gamut of things people have to prepare for when they play us. He is riverboat gambler and matches my personality. We will jell, and he will have them playing well.”
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