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Southlake Style

An Inside Look At This Year's Defense

Oct 05, 2018 04:16PM ● By Skylar Kalb
By: Justin Thomas

While Southlake Carroll's defense returned just five starters from last season, the Dragons took little time demonstrating how formidable of a group it will be in 2018 during a season-opening 25-8 victory over South Grand Prairie.

The South Grand Prairie Warriors didn't lack for offense a year ago, but found little success against a Carroll defense that surrendered just 241 total yards - 134 through the air and 107 on the ground. Dominating in the trenches, including recording a pair of sacks, had to be a particularly welcomed sit for first-year defensive coordinator Lee Munn - who arrives via Austin Westlake - as the Dragons had just one all-district lineman a year ago in Rice signee Jacob Doddridge.

The Dragons - who allowed 23.2 points and 338 yards (176 rushing, 162 passing) per game in 2017 - also said farewell to a pair of all-district middle linebackers and tackling machines in Ryan Thompson (team-high 162 tackles) and Matty Werner (second, with 128 tackles), but showed no signs of weakness in the middle against the Warriors.

"The effort and the way they ran to the football is what stood out most to me," says Riley Dodge, Carroll head coach. "We got hats to the ball and forced them into turnovers. It's really tough to pinpoint one guy. I thought our entire front seven had a great night."

The leaders of that front reside on the outside where linebackers Michael Parrish and Graham Faloona are back off All-District campaigns. Parrish season saw him notch 93 tackles (team-high 15 for loss) with five sacks and four forced fumbles, while Faloona recorded 80 tackles (seven for loss) with two sacks.

Joining the pair at starting linebacker is Preston Forney, who is transitioning from offense (tight end) to a full-time defensive spot at middle linebacker, and senior Colton Hunter, senior Sam Matin and junior Thomas Wrehe also fit into the rotation and will be contributors on special teams.

Up front, Carroll has what Dodge described as "a deep and veteran" unit headlined by juniors Quentin Bunten and Dillion Springer and senior Alex Kingston. Juniors Jacob Lattig and Andres Ramirez are also options on the defensive line.

Last year, Bunten had 56 tackles and a sack followed by Kingston with 48 tackles. Bunten already equaled his sack total from a year ago against South Grand Prairie while also chipping in three solo tackles, while Springer had seven tackles. Kingston, meanwhile, had five tackles and a game-changing play when he intercepted South Grand Prairie's Drake Logan and returned it 12 yards for a touchdown to open the season's scoring.

At linebacker, Parrish and Faloona were all over the field. The former had a team-high 10 tackles with one sack and four quarterback pressures while the latter wasn't far off with nine tackles. Inside, Forney's debut on the defensive side saw him record six tackles, including one for a loss with Matin making both of his takedowns fo for negative yardage.

Perhaps the biggest concern for the Carroll defensive entering the season came in the secondary where just one starter was due back following the transfer of all-district defensive back Jake Fex to Colleyville Heritage.

Fortunately, that player is blue-chip recruit and reigning all-state junior RJ Mickens - the No. 1-ranked safety in the country in his class and No. 5 player in Texas overall, according to 247sports.com. At 6'1" and 188 pounds, Mickens has his choices of colleges, and has already received offers from the likes of Alabama, Ohio State, Texas A&M and Clemson following a sophomore campaign of 99 tackles, two interceptions, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and a touchdown.

Mickens got right to his ball-hawking ways against the Warriors, picking off Logan while adding three tackles.

But Dodge notes Mickens wasn't the only secondary member with a big night.

"RJ was our only guy in the back end with experience," he says. "And we have a lot of different corners we're using. There are about five or six in our rotation, and I was very proud of the way they played in their first starts under the lights."

Fellow safety and senior Ben Furgal was a varsity member a year ago and had a strong opener with eight tackles. Conerbacks in the rotation for Munn include seniors Griffin Gumm and Spencer Simon, juniors Brandon Howell, Dylan Thomas and James Miscoll.

It was senior Connor Patterson who led the secondary in tackles, however, with eight, while Gumm and Howell had four apiece with the latter also adding a third Carroll interception. 

As noted, Carroll's secondary is vastly inexperienced in terms of varsity starts outside of Mickens, and should only improve as the Dragons drive towards the postseason. 

Factor in a front that has already flashed its potential, and Carroll has the makings of a defense that can carry the team to Arlington in December.