High School Football

Defense standing strong for Rams during 3-0 start

By Dennis Silva II | Sports Editor
Posted 10/8/20

Mayde Creek claiming the top offense, by yardage, among all Katy ISD teams through the first three weeks of the season should not come as a surprise.

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High School Football

Defense standing strong for Rams during 3-0 start

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Mayde Creek claiming the top offense, by yardage, among all Katy ISD teams through the first three weeks of the season should not come as a surprise.

Senior transfer quarterback Jace Wilson has been a revelation steering the Rams’ new-look offense. Senior running back Julius Loughridge is the top rusher in Katy ISD and is averaging three touchdowns per game. And the Rams have a plethora of playmaking perimeter stalwarts who can make anything happen at a moment’s notice.

But it’s the defense that has been a true difference-maker for the Rams. That was on display in Mayde Creek’s 28-7 win over Dulles on Thursday, Oct. 8, at Legacy Stadium. The Rams (3-0) held the Vikings to 154 total yards (78 in the first half when they held a 21-0 lead) and had four takeaways—two picks from senior defensive back Kevin Earls III and fumble recoveries by senior linemen Ronnie Eguche and Antonio Vasquez.

“We’re talking, we’re getting calls across the field,” Earls said. “When we communicate, that’s when we’re at our best. We have a wide range of good players. We can go to our second group and not skip a beat. We’re versatile and we try to make the best of it.”

Through three games, the Rams have nine takeaways and allowed 28 total points. They’ve had productive, efficient offenses in past years, but rarely have they had a defense as prolific as this one.

A new scheme is working. Mayde Creek has gone from a 3-4 to a 4-3 base defense and plays a healthy dose of nickel defense, an alignment that incorporates a fifth defensive back.

“We focus on defense,” coach Brian Randle said. “I was a defensive coordinator before I became a head coach, so I’m a defensive-minded guy. These kids can execute. That’s the biggest thing. They’re where they’re supposed to be. The coaches are doing a good job putting them in position to be successful.”

The Rams have had two games this season where a player has picked off multiple passes. In their win over Cy-Lakes last week, senior Alpha Khan collected two interceptions. This week, it was Earls’s turn.

“I read the quarterback’s eyes,” said Earls, whose picks came on consecutive Dulles drives to close the first half. “It was pretty simple. He’s a one-directional player, so I just followed where he was.”

Khan leads the Rams with three interceptions. Eguche leads with two fumble recoveries.

“We’re always trying to read the center and the guard and watch the movement,” Eguche said. “We’ve done a good job using our stronger arm to make plays and not get reached. Coach always tells us that we’ve got to make backfield plays. We’re using our moves and our hands and we’re making those plays.”

It’s been more than enough support for an electric offense. The Rams’ offense getting extra possessions because of takeaways by the defense has been the downfall for opposing teams.

Against Dulles, Wilson completed 11 of 22 passes for 179 yards and rushed for two touchdowns. After totaling 252 yards and five touchdowns against Cy-Lakes, Loughridge ravaged the Vikings for 200 yards and two touchdowns.

Senior L’den Skinner has emerged as one of the top wideouts in the Houston area, let alone Katy. Against Cy-Lakes, the 6-foot-2, 192-pounder had 107 yards on seven catches. Against Dulles, he upped that to 134 yards on six catches.

“Me and my quarterback, we stay in the kitchen and make sure everything’s well,” Skinner said. “We make sure the chemistry is good. As long as that happens, we’re going to make plays.”

Randle has been impressed with Skinner’s rebound after a tough Week 1 game against Conroe, when he had 26 yards on two catches.

“Week 1 wasn’t good for him,” Randle said. “If he catches all those passes he dropped, there’s no telling where he’s at now. But that was a wake-up call for him. He’s honed in and focused, and the sky’s the limit for him. We’re happy he’s building that confidence and believing in himself.”

But the story of late for the green and white is the defense.

The Rams have the luxury of lining up defensively according to whatever the offense is showing. Randle has athletes like linemen Kenneth Ellison, GeQuan Faucette-Lavan and Eguche, linebacker Everett Haven Jr., and defensive backs Joseph Kinyock and Khan, among others, who are versatile and explosive in pursuit.

“We want to make you bat left-handed, per se,” Randle said. “So, if you’re 10 personnel (one running back, no tight ends), we’re going to be in nickel. If you come out in 21 personnel (two running backs, one tight end), we’ll have four (down linemen), or possibly five. Whatever you give us, that’s how we’re going to respond.”

Not all defenses can conform to any offense. Skinner credits the unit’s aggressiveness.

“Even the young kids, man, they’re playing aggressive,” Skinner said. “That’s something you can’t really teach. You have to have that in your heart.”

Earls credits communication and desire.

“We have to keep the intensity and keep playing together,” he said. “If we do that, we’ll be fine. Keep playing our game, communicating and keeping the ball away from offenses.”

Rams players feel there is no telling what their ceiling is. Even after a program-best 9-3 season last year, the sense is this year’s team is better.

“We’re expected to do what we’re doing,” Skinner said. “When things go wrong, we don’t keep our head down, but we lift our chin up. We’re going to fight. This team has dog in our hearts. We play as a family and we each have something that motivates us.”

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