DEERFIELD — At times this season, the Deerfield football team’s defense has looked like a lost cause.
After a stretch of six games in which the Warriors gave up 40 or more points five times, they needed to prove themselves. They did just that Friday against Maine East, smothering the Blue Demons’ offense in a 43-0 rout, Deerfield’s second shutout of the season.
It’s been nothing short of a rocky ride for the Warriors’ defense. In Week 7, the team snapped a five-game losing streak but the defense still gave up 40 points to 1-7 Maine West. And despite the Warriors’ sterling performance on Friday, senior linebacker Landon Hinds, a leader of the defense, appeared unsettled.
“We’ve had our ups and downs,” he reflected. “This was our second shutout, and we didn’t have any shutouts last year. But we also had games where, as a defense, we have not been very good, and it’s kind of upsetting that we haven’t played our best at all times.”
Head coach and defensive coordinator Steve Winiecki was pleased with his squad’s domination and especially the execution of his unconventional 4-2-5 defensive scheme.
“It was nice to do what we did tonight, what we thought we could do all year, running a new scheme,” he said. “It’s kind of nice to put everything together; those kids deserve it.”
According to Winiecki, the sharp turnaround can be attributed more to the Warriors’ focus on the finer details than making big-time plays.
“We’re doing the little things well,” he said. “A shutout is great, but kids are making the right reads, getting the right drops, breaking up passes that most people wouldn’t have seen. There was a fourth-down play where our cornerback did a nice funnel technique to help force a turnover on downs. No one would have noticed that but us coaches.”
Behind the X’s and O’s lies a powerful bond among Deerfield’s defenders.
“I’ve played with most of these guys for eight years and I’ve been playing with Landon Hinds for a while,” senior linebacker Ross Leviton said. “We don’t even have to communicate most of the time. We know our thinking. We know what the other’s about to do, because we’ve played with each other for so long.”
While some of their CSL North rivals already have punched their tickets to the playoffs, the 3-5 Warriors are on the outside looking in. But the team’s sub-.500 record doesn’t keep the Warriors from playing up to their name.
“We owe it to the sport and we owe it to the school to give an effort all the time,” Winiecki said. “It’s disrespectful not to.”