Linebackers may be key against Central Heights
Defensive end Taylor Burnett returned to De Soto's lineup with all the force of a locomotive, returning an interception for a touchdown and picking up two sacks.
Safety Neil Erisman led the secondary, grabbing two of the Wildcats four interceptions.
But when De Soto coach Brad Scott had to pick the unit that was most responsible for last Friday's defensive excellence against Prairie View, and would be most counted on this Friday as De Soto travels to Central Heights, he went precisely in between Burnett and the front four defenders and Erisman and the back four.
"Our linebackers have been great," Scott said.
And De Soto will need them to be great again if the Wildcats are to advance to 3-0 on the young season.
Although Central Heights primarily presents a passing attack led by rangy wide receiver Tony Wilson, Scott said the linebackers -- Dustin Ester, JT Thompson and Trevor Leahy -- must stop the run, thus making the Vikings predictable and susceptible to Burnett, Erisman and the rest of the defense.
"If the linebackers are playing well, they're not running the football. If they're not running the football, then that makes them one dimensional," Scott said. "When we force them to throw, we have a couple good kids rushing the quarterback in Taylor and Pat (Burton), and we know we'll get after them."
But De Soto hasn't faced a team that can toss it like Central Heights.
Osawatomie relied on a running quarterback and a strong tailback, and Prairie View never established the pass or the run.
Though Central Heights graduated last year's starting signal caller, Craig Pearson, Wilson had 632 yards and six touchdowns a year ago, including five receptions for 33 yards in last year's De Soto game.
New quarterback Gus Wuertz threw three touchdowns in Central Heights' 28-12 win over Valley Heights just last week, including two to Wilson.
Wilson returned a punt 55 yards for a touchdown in the team's season opening 14-0 victory over Prairie View.
"They do a lot of things with chucking the ball around," Scott said. "Wilson's a quality receiver. He can catch the ball. He runs great routes and has good hands. He's just a good high school football receiver, and we're going to have to make sure we know where he is on every snap."
No matter how well the linebackers play, keeping an eye on Wilson will fall on the secondary.
Erisman's the unit's leader, having already notched three interceptions through two games. But he's surrounded by a flock of less-experienced cornerbacks and safeties. Still, Scott said juniors Jerod Bader and Austin DeGrave and sophomore Shane Miller are ready.
"They've gotten some confidence," Scott said. "With young secondary kids, a lot of the time they see the ball in the air and they're scared to see it and worried they're not going to make a play. Our kids have gotten past that and are saying 'Hey, throw it my way. I want to make a play.'
"I feel like our coverage has been pretty good for two weeks and hopefully that will continue, but Central Heights will definitely test us."