Cory Moore wants to win championships.
Lots and lots of championships — conference, district, state. All of them.
So the Lakewood football coach decided to ask a guy who has won lots and lots of conference, district and state championships how he did it.
And Spartans basketball coach Dan Wright looked Moore right in the eye and said "defense."
But not just any old defense.
No zones, no junk.
Just plain old hard-nosed man-to-man.
"He told me he believes his kids are better than the other team's kids," Moore said. "And I thought, good point."
Moore went out and got him a defensive coordinator, Brian Cooper, who agreed, and Friday night a defense that was better than the other team's kids was the key in a 31-20 victory.
It was an impressive enough performance that at times it seemed Cooper was sneaking an extra two or three players into the huddle.
What he really has done is sneaked in a little moxie. When he looked at tape from last year, he saw a good unit but one that played a soft scheme. He took sandpaper to the edges, and made it a little rougher.
The Spartans had a good defense last season. And even the year before, they were always included in any conversation about the top defenses around.
This year, though, they look different.
A little stronger. A little faster. A little more disciplined.
A lot more aggressive.
They flew around the field Friday night. They pressured Countryside quarterback Jimbo Chmelik into a tough night. They made running back Alton Taylor's uniform really, really dirty, dirtier than anyone else's in the stadium.
They sold out on every play, but unlike past seasons, there's a second line to this defense, ready to diffuse the risk of going 100 mph every play.
"It may look like we're just flying around," Cooper said, "but there's a scheme behind everything."
It wasn't exactly how things were supposed to go Friday night. The Cougars came in with a big, strong offensive line that has been touted as their best ever, and definitely the county's best, and yet all that size was split down the middle like a tree hit by lightning.
"They basically manhandled us at the point of attack and no one has been able to do that to us," said Countryside coach John Davis. "They bring everybody. And it's hard to simulate their speed at practice."
The Cougars got 72 yards on their first drive and looked great. But they had only 50 the rest of the first half.
By then it was 24-7.
"You gotta sell out, and once you get in their head they fold," said linebacker Ba'Ree Boyd. "And then when they fold, you win."
Give Countryside some credit. The Cougars fought back hard in the second half and put together two scoring drives. A dubious call on a fumbled punt took away some of their momentum and seemed to give the Spartans a second breath.
Of the Cougars' last 13 plays over three drives, they threw incomplete seven times — each misfire coming under great duress — and were sacked twice.
"We came out and hit hard," said linebacker Xavius Boyd. "The plan was to shoot our gaps and hit 'em straight in the mouth and that's what we did."
Moore wants to win championships.
He might just have the defense to do it.
John C. Cotey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org