CLEARWATER — They have terrorized county offenses with an uncanny ability to be precisely where opposing quarterbacks do not expect them to be.
Countryside’s defensive backs have a nose for the ball with their starting four — Cody Chmelik, Alex Dixon, Denzel Thompson and Tyler Serpo — combining for 16 interceptions this season.
So the first priority for Brandon’s quarterbacks in tonight’s Class 5A region quarterfinal will be to be know where the Cougars secondary is patrolling at all times.
That may not even be enough to avoid them, though.
“The defensive backfield is one of the strengths of our team,” coach Jared Davis said. “When I’m game planning I try to build everything on the defensive side from the back up. And these guys all fit in with what we’re trying to do.”
The biggest playmaker in the secondary is Dixon, a senior who recently committed to North Carolina.
Dixon’s speed, coverage skills and tackling ability make him the total package at corner. When he’s on his game, his side of the field might as well be roped off, because no quarterback will risk throwing over there.
“Alex doesn’t really get a lot of work,” Davis said. “He’s had maybe 10 passes thrown his way all year. We have to move him around just so he can see some action.”
But when a quarterback does look his way, look out. Dixon has three interceptions this season and has returned one for a score.
“It can be tough at times, not getting any passes thrown my way,” Dixon said. “But I’ve still got to make plays. I’ve still got to make tackles and get in the mix.”
Because he is virtually ignored, the rest of the secondary gets plenty of work — and they’ve made the most of their opportunities.
Thompson leads the team with seven interceptions. Serpo has four and Chmelik two.
They all know the cues to look for from receivers and quarterbacks to make the right moves at the right time.
“It’s primarily a run-first county and because these guys are so good in coverage we can afford to put a few more people at the line of scrimmage to stop the run,” Davis said. “But these guys do get free to make some plays in the passing game.
“We pride ourselves in shutting opponents down and it starts with the secondary.”