Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Countryside defense pleased with status quo

Cougars senior defensive end Steven Czop says he sees no drop-off in talent or confidence in this year’s unit.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Cougars senior defensive end Steven Czop says he sees no drop-off in talent or confidence in this year’s unit.

CLEARWATER

The obituary for Countryside's defense was swift and stinging.

There were too many graduating players, too many new faces, too much change to overcome, the experts predicted.

It was a jarring dismissal of a defense that ranked among the county's best during a four-year run (2009-12) in which the Cougars went a combined 28-2 on the field in the regular season.

But an odd thing happened on the way to football irrelevance.

Countryside is back on its familiar perch atop the county's defenses. The Cougars have changed nothing about their style but are allowing the fourth-fewest points (46) in Pinellas County during a season in which the dominant story line was supposed to be a defense struggling through a transitional period.

"Obviously, we had some changes after losing so many guys on both sides of the ball," coach Jared Davis said. "We lost a lot on offense, too. But I thought our defense still had a chance to be pretty good and was a group that would be ahead of the curve, at least early on, because there are so many moving parts on offense."

Countryside (4-1) is the latest version of what can happen in football when holdovers mesh, young players blossom, a quarterback properly manages games, a defense dominates, and those ingredients and other murky intangibles coalesce and click.

The Cougars, who are 2-0 in Class 7A, District 9 and tied with unbeaten East Lake and Pinellas Park atop the standings, have opened some eyes by continuing the tradition of playing old-fashioned, physical defense the way the school's dominant teams of the past did.

The strength of the defense is up front. Despite losing Mike Love to graduation and Ricky Thomas to an out-of-state transfer, Countryside still is wreaking havoc at the line of scrimmage thanks to the play of defensive end Steven Czop, a senior mainstay who leads the team with six sacks.

"There were a lot of doubters, people who thought we wouldn't be as good," Czop said. "But everyone in the locker room believed we would still be just as strong. We have great coaches that prepare us well, and it's the same confidence and same feeling I have with this group as I did the past two years."

That confidence started in the spring jamboree with close losses to Largo and Palm Harbor University.

"I knew at that moment we had a chance to do something because the defense didn't allow a point," Czop said. "Other teams scored off special teams."

The regular season opened with a 15-13 victory over Lakewood, a team many predicted to make a deep run through the playoffs. The wins have continued, including shutouts against Northeast and Clearwater the past two games.

But there are few easy games left on the schedule. Besides Lakewood, the Cougars have faced only one other winning team in the first half of the season. Now things get tougher with games against East Lake (7-0) next week and Pinellas Park (7-0) two weeks later to determine playoff spots.

"I think these first couple of games helped to get our bearings and get our mojo back on defense," Czop said. "But our coaches have always said that August and September are for pretenders and October and November are for contenders.

"We'll be up for the challenge the next few weeks. We'll be ready."

Bob Putnam can be reached at putnam@tampabay.com or on Twitter @BobbyHomeTeam.

Countryside defense pleased with status quo 10/10/13 [Last modified: Thursday, October 10, 2013 11:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trump: Objection to NFL protests 'has nothing to do with race'

    National

    MORRISTOWN, New Jersey — President Donald Trump insisted Sunday that his opposition to NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality "has nothing to do with race" but …

    President Donald Trump speaks to reporters upon his return to the White House in Washington, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017. Trump insisted Sunday that his opposition to NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality "has nothing to do with race" but has to do with "respect for our country and respect for our flag." [Associated PRss]
  2. World War II vet, 97, takes a knee in support of anthem protests

    Human Interest

    SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — On a day when NFL teams grabbed the nation's attention by coordinating demonstrations during the national anthem, a 97-year-old World War II veteran went viral with a solitary show of support for the protests.

    Brennan Gilmore posted a Twitter picture Sunday morning of his grandfather, John Middlemas, kneeling while wearing a veteran's cap. [Twitter]
  3. NFL Week 3: What we learned

    Bucs

    Take the knee … well, not NOW

     1. Photo of Roger Mooney for Times Sports.
  4. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Sunday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    RHP Chris Archer's primary problem Sunday, as in much of September, was a lack of slider command. When he can't throw it where he wants, and doesn't have the confidence in the changeup to throw it often, he can't win with just his fastball.

  5. Somehow, Rays' Chris Archer remains just shy of being an ace

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Chris Archer had another bad game Sunday.

    Chris Archer is sputtering to the finish line, his rough start on Sunday his fourth in his past five in which he hasn’t gotten past four innings.