By Jonathan Deal
Defense was a major reason Limestone County had four teams qualify for the postseason in 2013. That is certainly the case at Athens where the Golden Eagles allowed less than 14 points per game against some tough competition.
Defense carried Athens into the 5A quarterfinals, a big reason why AHS landed four players on the First Team.
West Limestone is another team with a big defensive turnaround this season. The Wildcats allowed 23 points per game and that’s after a humbling defeat to the 4A state champions in the opening round of the playoffs. It was 12 points per game less than West allowed the previous season and was the best defensive scoring average since 1999.
Many of the players on this list played both sides of the ball and could have made the First Team on offense. Here is detailed list of the 2013 All-County Defense:
Brian Sulcer, Senior, Athens: Sulcer played defensive end on the best defensive line in Limestone County and one of the best in 5A football. The senior had 80 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, four sacks and one interception that was returned for a score in a playoff game against Center Point.
Baltazar Rubio, Senior, Tanner: Along with playing offensive tackle, Rubio has been a mainstay along Tanner’s defensive line over the past three years. Rubio disrupted opponents’ blocking schemes, allowing the Rattlers’ linebackers to make plays. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound senior finished with 68 tackles, seven sacks and a county-best 26 tackles for loss.
Tyler Widner, West Limestone: Widner played multiple positions on both sides of the ball. The senior was a three-year starter who racked up 63 tackles, four sacks and seven tackles for loss.
DeAnte Griffith, East Limestone: A sophomore defensive lineman, Griffith had a monster year for East Limestone, finishing with a county-best 13 sacks to go along with his 64 tackles, including 16 tackles for loss.
Tucker McCormick, West Limestone: McCormick started for West Limestone at linebacker since he was in the ninth grade. He played both ways and was the team’s leading tackler with 116, 14 tackles for loss and three sacks and an interception return for a touchdown against Priceville.
Mathew Reyer, West Limestone: Reyer never left the field for West Limestone, playing tight end, linebacker and long snapper. The senior finished with 68 tackles and four tackles for loss. Reyer led the team in receiving yards with 315 and three touchdowns.
Alex Rodriguez, East Limestone: The junior finished with a team-high 113 tackles at middle linebacker. Rodriguez had nine tackles for loss.
Andre Holt, Athens: Holt, a junior, was one of the leading tacklers on the best defense in the county with 105 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, three sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception. Holt led an AHS defense that limited 5A and 6A opponents to 85 yards rushing per game. The Athens defense forced 29 turnovers and limited teams to 23 percent on third down conversions.
Johnnie Anderson, Athens: Anderson was described by Athens head coach Allen Creasy as a “quarterback” on the field and is the definition of a playmaker. A four-year starter, Anderson recorded 75 tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks, three interceptions, six fumble recoveries and a remarkable eight forced fumbles.
Paxton Schrimsher, Athens: Schrimsher formed a dynamic safety pairing with Anderson this season. The junior was among the top tacklers on the team with 102, a tackle for loss, three forced fumbles, seven pass breakups, six interceptions and two interception returns for touchdowns.
Deshun Freeman, Tanner: Freeman came through in the clutch during Tanner’s playoff run. The senior had late fourth-quarter interceptions in Tanner’s last three games, including one with less than two minutes to play in the state championship game. Freeman finished with a county-best seven interceptions this season.
Garrett Miller, Ardmore: Miller was one of the best athletes in Limestone County this season and could have easily made the team as First Team quarterback. On defense, Miller had 54 tackles and four interceptions as a safety, including a 96-yard interception return against Catholic.
Alex Hyde, East Limestone: Hyde was one of the most consistent punters in the county with 38 punts for a 38-yard net-punt average.
Defensive line: Kody Clark, Elkmont; Chris Welling, Ardmore; Taylor Northern, Athens; D.J. Pride, Athens; Shamaud Baker, Tanner; Junior Fierro, West Limestone;
Linebacker: Jarrett McLin, Athens; Valdarian Collier, Athens; Carson Pack, Ardmore; Jared Bailey, Elkmont; Ty Mayberry, Tanner;
Defensive back: Reed Blankenship, West Limestone; Stevie Romero, West Limestone; Sylvaughn Turner, East Limestone; Derek Teague, Athens.