Cayuga defense making interceptions a team effort
BETHEL - When a pass is intercepted, the defender who makes the pick is the one who gets the glory.
But for Cayuga, the Wildcats know it was a complete team effort.
"For us to get an interception, it takes the whole team," Cayuga head coach Tommy Allison said. "The defensive line needs to get pressure on the quarterback, our secondary has to have good coverage and then be able to make a play on the ball."
Cayuga heads into the Class A, Division II state championship game against Albany with 32 interceptions as a team. The state championship game is at 3 p.m. Saturday in Mansfield.
"It all starts with our defensive line getting pressure," senior defensive back Sha'keal Jenkins, who has five interceptions, said. "When they make the quarterback hurry, if it is not a perfect pass, we are going to pick it off."
It all starts up front with the pressure from the defensive line of Brandon Miller, Tramon Shead, Coleman Shafer and Don Holly.
"Our defensive line goes as hard as they can on every snap," Allison said. "They are relentless when it comes to putting pressure on the quarterback."
The pressure on the quarterback forces an early or an errant throw and that is when the secondary steps in to make the interceptions.
"We have a lot of good athletes in the secondary," said Billy Duncan, who leads the Wildcats with eight interceptions this season.
The Cayuga secondary also is made up of players who all get significant time on the other side of the ball as wide receivers. The knowledge of the game as a wide receiver helps the players when they are on defense.
"We are all good receivers and I think that is key," said Malcome Kennedy, who has six interceptions. "We know how to read routes and break on the ball."
In Cayuga's playoff run, the Wildcats have 14 interceptions in five games, including five picks against Beckville.
The Wildcats had three key interceptions in the state quarterfinal win against Mart. The first was an interception by Jenkins at the goal line to stop a drive in the second quarter.
Chris Turner then came up with two interceptions in the fourth quarter as Cayuga held on to a slim lead.
"Chris has become a tremendous player for us after being on the junior varsity team last year," Allison said. "He has filled a huge role for us and made two big plays against Mart when they were trying to rally back against us."
The interceptions where even bigger to Turner, who has three picks on the year, because in the first quarter, he tripped and fell down on a long touchdown pass by Mart.
"I really wanted to be able to make a play after getting burned earlier," Turner said. "Getting that first interception helped give our defense the momentum for the fourth quarter."