Defensive front key for the Bulldogs
MANCHESTER — The Burr and Burton offense has been one of the highest scoring in the state this season, scoring an average of 47.2 points per game.
When the offense is that prolific, sometimes the defense is forgotten. But according to Burr and Burton coach Jason Thomas, the defense has been a major reason why the Bulldogs are 9-1 and going to their third championship game in four seasons.
"What we do offensively, pace is important, but teams try to control the ball," Thomas said. "We can't get the ball and can't score without our defense getting their offense off the field. Our defense has been doing a tremendous job in limiting what teams do and how many yards they get. It's not even a 'bend, not break,' it's a 'We're coming after you and you have to figure out a way around us."
Led by a front line that includes Will Frank, Olivier Cazaudumec, Ethan Simonds and David Keyes, the Bulldogs have allowed 116 points, 11.6 per contest, and no more than 21 — that in a non-divisional loss to Middlebury about a month ago.
As many weapons as the BBA offense has, the defense has some too.
"We didn't have many close games this year and part of that, is the defense is so good, it gets frustrating for their offense to see green [BBA uniforms]," Thomas said. "And it's not one or two guys, it's a pack mentality. We're the Bulldogs, we're going hunting in a pack. Don't assume your buddy will make the tackle, you have to be there too to clean up. It wears on teams and that gives us an advantage."
Frank, who stands about 6-foot-6, is usually in a two-point stance, sort of a defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid. His length allows him to get up the field and keep blockers off of him so he can make the stop in the backfield.
Before the team's semifinal, Frank had 29 tackles and 5-and-a-half sacks, good for second on the team.
Cazaudumec only stands about 5-foot-7, but what the senior lacks in height he more than makes up for in drive. He's had 48 tackles this year, fourth on the team, but also 4-and-a-half sacks as he's made life difficult for opposing quarterbacks.
"It's an honor to have the reputation, playing after guys who are now [playing in college]," Cazaudumec said. "We have to come with the same attitude, we're the best on the field regardless of who it is."
Simonds at nose guard has 27 tackles and two sacks, despite being in the middle of the line.
"On our line, you have to have a couple guys on all of us. It doesn't matter if it's me, or Will or Owen, no matter who's getting blocked, someone else is free," Cazaudumec said.
Keyes, only a freshman, but tall and wide, he forces teams to consider a double team at the point of attack. Keyes has 41 stops and 1.5 sacks, part of the Bulldogs' total of 35 on the year.
Moving from offensive line to the defensive front seven is Owen King, who has nine sacks on the year to lead all the Bulldogs.
"We have a bunch of sacks this year, and it throws [teams] off schedule, there's not a lot of great calls for 3rd and 15," Thomas said. "We've been good about getting them into long yardage situations."
Those differences make it very tough for opposing offenses to find any rhythm.
"Everyone has their own skill sets, Olivier plays with good pad level and great energy," Thomas said. "Will is long and athletic for his size. Owen has good speed off the edge and then David is a big mauler. Then you have Ethan at the nose, clogging up the middle and occupying a double or moving the center back, it's hard to run against us in the A gap."
During a 48-14 win in Week 4, the BBA defense bent, but rarely broke, forcing Fair Haven to turn the ball over on downs four times and sacking Slater quarterback Cameron Coloutti five times.
Cazaudumec and Keyes each had a sack-and-a-half, while Frank had a sack as Coloutti only completed 12 passes for 185 yards in the game, a lot of it on one 68-yard pass to Andrew Lanthier.
"Fair Haven is the defending state champions and we want what they have and they want to protect it and go back-to-back," Thomas said. "We need to be applying pressure and just go out and execute."
For the seniors, it would bookend their careers with titles after BBA won the championship in 2015.
"It's our last opportunity and no one is getting overlooked, no matter what the result was last time. It's now or never," Cazaudumec said.
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