RAMSEUR — As the Eastern Randolph High School varsity football team prepared for the season, veteran head coach Burton Cates, who has had numerous stellar defenses in the past, said he felt this year’s team could produce one of the best defenses in school history.
His defense is showing that the head coach certainly knows what he’s talking about.
The ER defense recorded its fourth straight shutout last week with a 47-0 victory over Providence Grove. In the Wildcats' first three Piedmont Athletic Conference battles, they have outscored foes 136-0 and have outscored their last four opponents 177-0.
“I thought they could be special at the beginning of the year, I really did,” Cates said after the Wildcats improved to 3-0 in the PAC and 7-1 overall. “I thought they had the opportunity and a lot of times you see that and you don’t improve. This group has improved a lot.
“We have been very fortunate to have good defenses in the past and this is just the tradition and staying with it. They really have a chance to go down with a legacy. They have a chance to be really great, maybe one of the best we’ve ever had here. They are on that road.”
The Wildcats have three solid lines of defense, with the front line led by senior lineman Jani Norwood, who is heading to the University of North Carolina.
“We work hard in practice every day,” Norwood said. “Our goal is to not let anyone in the conference score. We just practice hard every day and it translates to the field.”
The front line got even stronger with the return of senior Julian Brooks, who missed time after being injured against Asheboro.
“It's a great group,” Brooks said. “We work really hard week in and week out and we just do our job and go home. When we do our job, we get shutouts like that. I’m really proud of my guys and my D line. They really put the work in this week.”
Teams are finding it hard to run on the Wildcats, who are led at linebacker by senior Adonye Herbert, junior Desean Shamburger, freshman Kobe Walker and senior Luis Garcia.
“It’s what we plan on doing,” Herbert said of the four straight shutouts. “We come to practice, put in the work and let the results talk. We play for each other. We’re a family and we just want to keep that week in and week out.”
Nicah Taylor and Ladaryan Spinks among others have contributed on the defensive side.
“The thing about this defense that separates us from a lot of defenses is they are so physical,” Cates said. “They love contact and they will hit you. They will strike you. They have a knack for striking.”
After a season-opening 35-15 loss to Eastern Alamance, the defense allowed 50 points in the next three wins, but since that time, the Wildcats have yet to yield a point, posting shutouts over Parkwood, Southwestern Randolph, Trinity and Providence Grove.
“It's not surprising, we have had this work ethic for a while,” Norwood said. “We are showing everyone what we can do.”
That they are.