Cyclones’ defense shuts down offense en route to playoffs

Eastern View Hosts Patrick Henry at 7 p.m. Nov. 10.

In the afterglow of last Friday night’s regular season finale Eastern View’s players were smiling as they mingled with families and fans outside the team’s locker room. Cyclones head coach Greg Hatfield was equally elated, but he was dealing with a slight case of Gatorade-induced hypothermia—he smiled through chattering teeth.

It was the sweet albeit cold taste of victory.

The Cyclones (10-0) finished the regular season with a 56-0 rout of King George to put an exclamation point on a season where it averaged 50 or more points in nine-of-ten regular season games.

Opposing offenses also felt the wrath of a defense that was opportunistic and equally as impressive earning three-straight shutouts in the Cyclones’ final three games against Caroline, James Monroe and King George.

The Cyclones defense has size and aggressiveness on its front line, speed and toughness in the linebacker corps and its defensive backs are ball-hawks with closing speed.

“As I look back on the season I think our entire team has constantly improved from game to game. This is especially true for our defense,” said Hatfield. “I think as a unit they tackle well and they are fundamentally sound on the field. Every one of our starters on defense works very hard on their fitness, ability to read offenses and all are fun to coach. They are always eager to learn and play hard.”

The gaudy numbers put up by the Cyclones’ offense (483 points) stand in stark contrast to the numbers surrendered by the defense (73 points).

Two local high school football experts weighed in on why Eastern View’s defense has been so successful this season. Both have analyzed or announced every game.

“I think with Eastern View I’ve seen a swarming defensive unit whose players are well-coached, well-disciplined in their assignments and whose players don’t get caught out of position. As my colleague Steve Peacock has always pointed out—- EV has several individual stars but they collectively play very well as a unit. The front three or four have consistently done a great job of controlling the line of scrimmage throughout the season.  The Cyclones defense has completely stopped opponents from establishing any semblance of a running game. Even when it looks like there’s a running crease, the defense swarms like bees. They quickly fly to the ball,” said Mark O’Connell, an author and football commentator for Culpeper Media Network.

The booming voice of the Cyclones also added his insight.

“The Cyclones have a big aggressive line. They disrupt the backfield well and force opposing quarterbacks out of the pocket.  The Cyclone linebackers make very good decisions and attack downfield,” said Dave Richardson, a press box announcer for the Cyclones and former line coach for the 1999 state champion Culpeper Blue Devils.

Perhaps the only real question mark associated with the Cyclones is the level of competition this year. Have they been tested?  The Cyclones have met every challenge on its road to earning the Battlefield District championship trophy.

In the Virginia High School League playoffs the opponents become more formidable. The Cyclones will enter the Region 4B playoffs as a 4th seed—a strange seed considering its team record. Three other top-rated, undefeated teams, Dinwiddie, Monacan and Louisa also lurk within the 4B playoff bracket.

“The only team in our playoff region we have faced is Courtland (a 6th seed that will play Louisa) the others are less familiar to our staff,” said Hatfield as he began preparations for his home playoff game this Friday. “Our defensive coach Steve Francese does a great job of pushing fundamentals with our players and putting them in positions to be successful.  Our players have done a great job of buying into the system.”

In the big snapshot of the Eastern View defense it all comes down to teamwork.  At the forefront of its defense are standouts, most notably D’Ago Hunter, Paris Owen, David Leavell and Zach Brown but they do not stand alone.

Each unit of Eastern View’s team must rise to the occasion in the playoffs each must contribute for the team to advance. Feel the wind this Friday night when the Cyclones host the Patrick Henry Patriots (6-4) at 7p.m.

Culpeper County High School (4-6) also made the playoffs in Group 3 A and play at Spotsylvania Friday night at 7 p.m.