The Wylie Pirates defense is playing some of the best football in the area, but they know bigger tests lie ahead.
Wylie (1-0, 2-1) is currently second in the Metroplex in allowing just 176.7 yards per game through their first three games, including an area-leading 9.33 rushing yards allowed per game. With a front seven that returns a lot of players from a young team in 2021, they’ve got off to a hot start after an offseason of development.
“Our key is just flying around and making plays in the open field,” linebacker Austin Fabian said. “We’ve been flying around and making tackles and putting pressure on the quarterback every single game. We’re getting better and evolving as a defense each week.”
Fabian and Christian Ressureccion both returned as starting middle linebackers heading into their junior seasons. With a combined 25 tackles and two sacks from Fabian, they’ve shown growth over the summer workouts.
“Last year was a whole new thing for me going from freshmen team to my sophomore year on varsity,” Fabian said. “I’m seeing things a lot faster than ever before and making plays for the team.”
Stellar run defense isn’t carried by just two players, however, as the Pirates have seven or more players who have stepped up and been able to make plays for the defense. Through three games, the defense has 15 sacks and 35 tackles for loss from 12 different defensive players, showing the depth and ability for the team to rotate in multiple players who can have success.
“We want the quarterback to make hard decisions while he’s back there,” defensive tackle Cam Draper said. “If we can fly around to the football and get after the quarterback, it’ll shorten his time and make things tough.”
Draper has been one of the better defensive tackles in the district so far this season, racking up seven tackles for loss and two sacks this season. For him, and the rest of the defensive front, he said the work put in this offseason has been the biggest difference in the team’s success.
“I’m just trying to demonize the guy in front of me,” Draper said. “If I can win my battle and put pressure on the quarterback, I’m helping the team win games. The weight room and showing up every day during the offseason have got me right. It’s a different mentality this season and we’re trying to get better.”
What lies ahead are still some of the biggest tests for the Wylie defense, facing talented running teams such as North Garland, Sachse, Wylie East and Naaman Forest still on the schedule. In 2021, North Garland quarterback Godspower Nwawuihe rushed for 242 yards and two scores in the final game of the regular season, knocking Wylie out of the playoffs. He presents the first big test for the improved Pirates defense this Friday night.
“It’ll be all about attacking his outside shoulder and tackling or turning him back inside,” outside linebacker Trevor Ferland said. “He really likes to outrun you on the outside and he’s very quick, so we have to stay disciplined.”
Ferland and fellow outside linebacker Brady Dalton have been the surprise players this season for the Pirates, leading the team in tackles and tackles for loss through three games. Dalton made an impact late in the 2021 season, earning a starting role, while Ferland missed the year with a broken collarbone and has worked hard to earn his place in the lineup this season.
Trusting the process of the team has allowed them to make splash plays for the defense, as Dalton did with a fumble recovery that sparked the offense in their previous victory against South Garland.
“We all trust each other a lot,” Dalton said. “Hopefully we can blitz a lot and when we get hands on him make the tackle, because he’ll try and put a move on us. It’ll be a tough challenge, but we can make the plays.”
For now, the team is focused on the task at hand and winning one game at a time. As they host the Raiders this Friday, the team is eager to prove their legit after their impressive start to the regular season.
“We just have to keep doing what we’re doing,” defensive end Dane Farley said. “We’ve got all of these guys who are awesome, and we got enough players to rotate and help smash our opponent’s head. Our coaches always want us to be aggressive and I feel like we can go out and do that.”