No. 1-ranked Dwyer's defense could be 'best ever' coach Jack Daniels says
Saturday, August 25, 2012
by Jeff Greer
Where there's defense there's wins in high school football, which is what sets Dwyer apart from every other Palm Beach County team this fall.
Dwyer's defense, from likely BCS-bound defensive end Malik Brown to high-flying linebackers Shawn Boone and Jarred Brown to hard-hitting defensive backs DeAndre Bozeman, Jonathan Moxey and Anthony Williams, doesn't have a weakness. It almost seems unfair.
"This might be the best defense we've ever had here," Dwyer coach Jack Daniels said on the first day of practice.
The Panthers showed that Friday night at Miami Central, where despite losing 15-7 to the country's top-ranked team, Dwyer stifled Central's pair of big-name junior running backs, holding them under 100 total yards. They snatched two interceptions and ripped out three fumbles, recovering two.
What makes Dwyer's defense state-title worthy is its aggressive intelligence. There's speed paired with power paired with presence of mind: Penalties and mistakes are few and far between with this group.
But for all the games the defense could (and should) win this fall, the offense must catch up.
Neither senior Clay Meister nor junior Rob Nittolo has separated himself in the quarterback battle. And the offensive line struggled mightily against the speedy Miami Central line.
With games against known speed teams Atlantic, Glades Central and Royal Palm Beach, both areas need improvement quickly.
Luckily Dwyer has a junior trio so fast and elusive, it may not matter who's throwing them the ball. Consider: Either Meister or Nittolo will have Johnnie Dixon, Ezra Saffold and Clint Stephens.
Dixon (5-foot-11, 190 pounds) is one of the fastest juniors in the state in track and field. He had 365 yards and seven touchdowns last fall, and has attracted the attention of Florida, Florida State and several other heavy-hitting college programs.
So has classmate Stephens (5-10, 185), who hauled in 40 throws for 604 yards and seven touchdowns in 2011. He's just as quick, and a heady receiver who understands spacing and timing.
But toss in the 5-8, 160-pound Saffold, who's repeatedly been mentioned by Daniels as a revelation this offseason, and Dwyer's quarterback-to-be can sleep easy.
"It's almost an embarrassment of riches," Daniels joked. "We're so fortunate to have one of them, but three?"
Ultimately the offense will need to do enough to allow Dwyer's D to stay aggressive.
After all, a trip to state is the expectation every year at Dwyer, and this campaign is no different, especially with this defense.