Even if a 1-2 record in non-district play won’t send the Sterling Rangers and their fans swooning, one thing has made many take notice: The play of the defense.
In the season opener, the Rangers held Clear Creek to seven points through the first three quarters before running out of gas and followed that up by holding Aldine Nimitz to 16 points and shuting out Houston Austin.
So, as District 21-6A play begins 7 p.m. Thursday against
unbeaten Beaumont United, the Rangers know they will be challenged to take their defensive efforts to another level.
Sterling has held its first three opponents to an average of 227.3 yards per game including only 49 yards through the air per contest.
A lot of that can be attributed to second-year head coach Alvin Dotson who arrived in May of 2018 with the hiring of head coach Robert Toomer.
“I am a defensive-minded guy so wherever I go, we preach defense first,” Toomer said. “Dotson brings a lot of energy and is a perfectionist. On defense we can be wild, crazy, loud, obnoxious and as vocal as we want. Dotson brings all of that for me. I am really pleased where we are.”
Toomer said the defense was not too bad a year ago and the Rangers just struggled to take advantage of their opportunities to score.
Dotson is recognized a distinguished teacher in special education and Toomer said his defensive coordinator brings that approach to the gridiron.
“He likes teaching first,” Toomer said. “He likes to show them first and is a hand-on type of guy. He’s fiery. To play defense, you have to be a little crazy. To play defense and try to tackle someone running at you at 15 miles-per-hour you have to have a little something with you.”
Dotson and Toomer both noted it wasn’t an issue of being able to play or coach defense, but the late start in year one, slowed them down schematically and fundamentally.
“The spring football really helped us,” Dotson said. “Working on the fundamentals and recognizing formations was important. Our meetings were like a classroom where they can recognize tendencies we are teaching on the field.
“The first week or so last summer, we wanted to make sure that they knew I was a no-nonsense type of person. Now the kids are coming up and really respect that I treat them like young men and that respect is reciprocated.”
Dotson believes tackling efficiently is the most important thing on defense and to make sure they remain aggressive.
Fans didn’t see much of that in the scrimmage against Barbers Hill in August, but that changed.
“We try to attack,” Dotson said. “We didn’t blitz a lot and we didn’t show a whole lot. We probably work on blitzing more than most teams do.”
Senior safety Tayvion Haggerty the extra work the players put in since the end of last season has paid dividends.
“I’ve had a lot of defensive coaches at Sterling, but with this group, it’s a lot more organized,” Haggerty said. “The more individual work we get, the more we will learn as a team. The people who decided to show up to summer workouts and spring football, it really helped us out.”
So did the extra weight gained in the weight room and now they need to stand toe-to-toe with district foes.
“It helps us make tackles better and everyone’s confidence is up,” Haggerty said. “I just got to work on my boys and see what works best.”
With district play bringing forth several top opponents, the Rangers now have to elevate their play to gain momentum and a potential bi-district spot.
“We definitely have to build on the success the kids had the last two games,” Dotson said. “We’ve been tackling better and now me want to make sure our schemes aren’t as open and more disguised. I know district is going to be tough, but I think we are going to surprise some people.”