Hornets’ linemen produce big-time in trenches

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Hinsdale South’s defense is much different than the typical 3-4 scheme used by many high school, college and pro teams.

Three defensive linemen are charged with clogging up the middle and allowing the linebackers room to attack.

What makes the Hornets’ setup different is two of the key players for their defensive line, sophomore Joshua King and senior Antanas Riskus, don’t fit the usual mold. They are built more like tight ends than defensive linemen, standing well over six feet tall and having a higher center of gravity than your typical guy in the trench.

“We didn’t expect this going into the season,” Hornets coach Michael Barry said. “And, like everything else, this was the big mystery of Game One to see what would happen.”

While they don’t look like linemen, they proved their worth in Saturday’s season opener against Romeoville. King recovered a fumble and Riskus zeroed in on every player carrying the ball.

Both are sneaky quick and able to close off potential rushing lanes on the outside.

Because they spend most of the game receiving and delivering hits, it’s important they stay fresh. Riskus credits the training they did in the offseason.

“Over the summer, we just did non-stop work,” Riskus said. “Whether it was up-downs, extra conditioning or something as simple as going over the calls with (defensive line) Coach Amolsch over and over again. D-line is all about repetition. With me and Josh being so tall, we had to work on getting lower.”

Senior nose tackle Lironn Downing looks more like a typical defensive lineman and is almost always facing the center. His hard-hitting, aggressive style helped close off gaps up the middle, forcing the Spartans outside. Even when he was double-teamed, Downing rarely gave an inch.

“My focus is on conference so getting more tackles and having every center scared to go one-on-one,” Downing said of his goals.

While the Hornets were stunned by Romeoville 32-29 in the opener, the defensive linemen found plenty to work on.

“There are lots of things motivating me to play hard every play,” Riskus said. “As a defense, as the season goes on, I’m confident that we will start clicking and really become a good defense.”

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