HOUSTON — With the foundation of a strong line and standout performances throughout the defense, led by 6-foot-2, 290-pound senior tackle Brandon Brown, Morton Ranch excelled to a 3-1 record in non-district play to start the season.
The Mavericks are allowing a stingy 13.3 points on 192.8 yards per game.
Brown and Morton Ranch coach Ron Counter attributed the success to hard work in practice and a new philosophy from defensive coordinator Ryan Gloston. Brown, a verbal commit to Tulane, said the unit has played better since a season-opening 20-14 win against Cypress Lakes.
“The first game, it didn’t work out for us, because the defense was on the field for too long and they ended up scoring,” Brown said. “Since then, we’ve been working on a lot of tackling. It’s not the same as last year. It’s a speed defense, with a lot of guys getting to the ball and swarming the ball, to try to get turnovers. We’ve got to get more turnovers to put the offense on the field.”
Gloston is in his first year at the helm of the Mavericks’ defense but has coached with Counter for six years. Counter said the players and coaches have bought into Gloston’s system of speed and everyone to the football.
The fury of the defense was on full display against Sam Houston on Sept. 21, as the Mavericks claimed an overwhelming 41-6 win at Butler Stadium. The outcome wasn’t in doubt by the end of the first quarter, and perhaps even before kickoff. The undermanned Tigers only dressed 30 players because of flooding in the area from Tropical Depression Imelda and used as much time from the play clock as they could every possession to preserve players’ energy and health.
“We knew we’d probably have a running clock in the second half, and that the game would be shortened,” Counter said. “Our sympathy and compassion goes out to them, because we were told they have five to 10 kids missing because they got flooded out. They’re dealing with more important things.”
In that first quarter, Morton Ranch senior wideout Josh Gaton returned a punt 29 yards for a touchdown, had another punt return touchdown called back for a holding penalty, but made up for it anyway with a 37-yard touchdown reception on the same possession. The Mavericks started Jaymarcus Wilson at quarterback; the junior had the touchdown pass, and touchdown runs of six and 26 yards, respectively.
Counter said he made the change at the position from senior Jaden Diaz because of Wilson’s speed and athleticism. Wilson finished with 85 yards on four carries.
“He gives us a little more athleticism at that spot and we’re hoping for big things for him in district,” Counter said, noting that Wilson started at quarterback his freshman year before moving to cornerback.
The Morton Ranch starting and second string defense was overwhelming against Sam Houston. The Tigers only had two plays for positive yardage in the first half and didn’t have a first down. Their touchdown came after a surprise onside kick to start the second half, and it was the only drive they got past their own 30-yard line.
Despite that, Brown said the Mavs’ defense still has plenty it can work on in practice.
“Individually, I think when I get on the field, I can work on my get-off as a defensive lineman, going off the ball faster, and as a team, I think we can work on running to the ball more,” he said. “We’re just trying to put it together, and we’re trying to get these young guys on the same page as the seniors.”
The majority of the Maverick starters didn’t play for long against Sam Houston. Brown played a single series in the first quarter and senior running back Jaelon Moorehead had the game off for precautionary reasons, Counter said.
Junior Ryan Adams continued his strong play since being inserted as a running back in Week 3. He ran for 116 yards on 15 carries against Sam Houston.
“We’re in good shape, we just need to get ready for Katy Taylor,” Counter said, referring to their district opener on Sept. 27. “It’s going to be a big game and four quarters of physical football.”