Tiger defense sharpening its teeth

Tom Causey figured out a long time ago that the old saying about defense winning championships is true. And while nothing in high school football is exactly a science, Demopolis High School’s head coach has found a correlation between average points allowed per game and state championships.

“Something that we’ve probably been looking at since 2000 with our coaching staff is, what are the average points per game given up by the 5A teams? What are they giving up and getting to a state championship,” Causey said of a statistical category that has typically proven an accurate indicator of success. “It’s less than 15 or 16 points a game. With today’s offenses as good as they are, that’s a tough thing to do. Our guys are starting to understand that and getting better at it every week.”

The Tigers flirted with that number during their 2009 state championship season, a 15-game stretch in which they allowed only 17.26 points per contest.

Just three games into the 2012 campaign, Causey’s Tigers have relinquished a paltry seven points per game, surrendering seven to American Christian Academy and 14 to Saraland with a shutout of Citronelle sandwiched in between.

With powerhouse programs such as Thomasville, Greenville, Jackson and Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa still on the horizon, that average is almost assured of increasing. But, Causey is hopeful this group, under the guidance of defensive coordinator Matt Geohagan, will have the wherewithal to post a number even more impressive than the 21.54 points per game the Tigers allowed through the first five seasons of the Causey era.

“I think some of them understand how big that is,” Causey said of the pride his players take in shutting down opposing offenses. “Coach Geohagan and the defensive coaches have really stressed to them being a great defense and not giving up a lot of points.”

To date, the best performing defense of the Causey era came in 2007 with a group that allowed 16.9 points per game, albeit against lighter non-region competition that included 3A schools Sumter County and Greensboro as well as 4A Greene County.

It is far too early to tell if the 2012 Tigers have what it takes to be the best defensive unit of the Causey era. Still, through the season’s first three games, they have allowed a lower points-per-game average than any of their predecessors.

The next stingiest Demopolis defenses through the first three contests of a season came in the 2008 and 2009 seasons, both of which allowed an average of 10.67 points per game over the opening trio of contests in their respective campaigns.

While allowing only seven points per game in the early part of 2012, the Demopolis defense has displayed a much more aggressive tendency.

“I think everybody preaches physical,” Causey said of the Tigers’ aggressiveness. “We’re getting a little bit better at it. Physical football is a mindset. That’s a credit to our kids. We can preach it until we’re blue in the face, but if they don’t have that mindset, it’s not going to happen.”