Defense is the Name of the Game for Unbeaten West Rusk
Shaking your head is about the only thing you can do when you look at what West Rusk has done so far this season defensively.
In seven games West Rusk has allowed 31 points (23 of which came in one game), pitched five shutouts, recorded 113 -- yes, 113 -- tackles for loss, forced 23 turnovers and forced 18 sacks.
Junior Diego Molina has 80 tackles, 25 tackles for loss, five sacks and a forced fumble. Tyree Wilson has 67 tackles, leads the team with 26 tackles for loss, four sacks, 21 quarterback hurries and three fumble recoveries. Darrien Johnson is right there with them with 55 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, four sacks, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
The Raiders have allowed no points in four district games.
"We talked going into the season that we had the chance to have a really good defensive unit, but we had to go play to find out," West Rusk coach John Frazier said Wednesday. "The goals weren't to have the shutouts, but just playing great, solid defense. We wanted to concentrate as much as we could on the defensive side of the team."
Frazier said it was his team's 24-0 shutout of Arp on Oct. 20 that cemented how good the defense can be. Then the Raiders promptly followed with a 21-0 shutout of Waskom.
"At that point (the Arp game) I think it became a prideful thing for these guys to try to shut teams out and you could see it in them that they realized how good they were," Frazier said. "Week in and week out they're focusing, playing hard and playing really well."
Less talked about but just as explosive is West Rusk's offense, which is averaging almost 40 points per game and 435 yards per game. Six players are in the triple digits in rushing this season, led by Jaylon Garland's 941 yards and 17 touchdowns in six games after missing the Waskom game.
The Raiders are averaging 330.9 yards rushing per game while quarterback Lajavius Harper has thrown for 731 yards and eight touchdowns.
"We knew we had the chance to be explosive, but our focus was to just take care of the football and be patient on offense," Frazier said. "But we've been able to make some big plays this year from a lot of people."
Frazier said what sets this year's team about is its tenacity to focus on what's in front of them and not outside distractions. There's one goal in mind, he said, and that's to win the last game of the season.
"You never hear these guys talk about statistics, stories from the media or any other distractions. That's one thing I've noticed that's makes me impressed with them," Frazier said. "They're truly focused week to week and are ignoring the noise along the way. It's one rep at a time, one play at a time and one game at a time. We've stuck to that."
The Raiders will face District 9-3A Division II's highest scoring offense Friday night in Elysian Fields. The Jackets will look to upset eighth-ranked West Rusk to force a tie atop the district standings, but they'll have to do so against a defense quickly making a name for itself across the state.
"Elysian Fields will be the most offensively balanced team we've faced all year," Frazier said. "They expect to win and that's a tough place to win a game. We've got our hands full Friday night. It's going to be a fun football game."