Strong defense rescues Bulldogs

By ROB LUDWIG / Special To The Corsicana Daily Sun

When Pittsburgh was in the middle of its dominant run of Super Bowl wins, Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw was sidelined with an injury and the Steelers had to lean on little-used backups Terry Gilliam and Terry Hanratty.

But it was the defense that featured the Steel Curtain line, linebackers Jack Ham and Jack Lambert and cornerback Mel Blount that shut down opponents en route to the 1974 Super Bowl title.

Navarro College knows what the Steelers were feeling 40 years ago. When Josh Greer went down with a broken collarbone at the end of a win over Kilgore, it had to go with untested backup Alex Allen and then stalwart-but-newbie Carson Earp in the next two weeks.

The Bulldog defense has taken up the slack in Greer’s absence and even before the sophomore signal-caller was injured.

The second half shutdown has become the Bulldogs’ specialty. In Week 2, the defense shut out Hutchinson as the Bulldogs rolled to a 41-14 victory. The defense held Kilgore scoreless in the final 30 minutes of a win against an offensive juggernaut as Navarro moved to 4-0.

Not much went right for anybody in a 35-7 loss to Trinity Valley, but again it was the defense that held Tyler to a field goal and gave the struggling offense a chance to win last week in a 17-10 loss.

In short, when the Bulldogs have needed a second-half stop this season, their defense has responded, save for the hiccup against Trinity Valley.

“The defense has really stepped up for us in the second half of games this season,” said Navarro coach Brian Mayper. “They’ve given us opportunities to win games by shutting down the other team.

“If they play that way the entire game, it’s hard for anyone to beat us.”

The effect of new defensive coordinator Scott Joseph has displayed the football acuity and the infectious enthusiasm that has spurred the defensive success.

Under his tutelage, the Bulldogs lead the conference in defense, allowing only 272 yards per game. Despite a big first half by Tyler’s Leroy Dobbins last week, Navarro is still allowing only 3.0 yards per carry and has forced 14 turnovers as the Bulldogs hold a plus-seven in turnover-takeaways this season.

Joseph switched Navarro to a 3-4 front this season, a rarity among Southwest Junior College Football Conference teams. He’s obviously had ample success with his methods and alignments in the past, leading Cypress Ranch High School to the Class 5A state quarterfinals last season. He’s also had stops at Katy Seven Lakes, Fort Bend Hightower, Baytown Lee and Rosenberg Terry. Joseph also had a stint as head football coach at Houston Westbury for five seasons.

Joseph’s coaching prowess is obvious is you simply look at his lineage. Father Eddie Joseph was the Texas High School Coaches Association Executive Director for 25 years. Brother Gary has led Class 5A powerhouse Katy to six state titles. Even brother-in-law Doug Fertsch was a valued coach on the high school and collegiate levels for 25 years.

“Scott has an outstanding background and has had success everywhere he’s been” Mayper said. “Our defense is in good hands.”

The Joseph-led defense will have to continue its progression the final three games of the regular season as the Bulldogs position themselves for a deep playoff run.

With local product Dominique Kelly and Chrishard Buhl at linebacker and defensive linemen Marquis Anderson (Oklahoma transfer) and Michael Starts (Texas Tech transfer) solidifying the defensive line, the Bulldogs certainly have the personnel for the task.

“We’re going to lean on our defense,” Mayper said. “But we’ve also got to get back to being a great offensive football team.”