Sevier County defense tough to beat in the second half

Sep. 13, 2013 @ 12:11 PM

 There’s a trend emerging for Kenny Ratledge’s Sevier County defense.
The Smoky Bears are unbreakable in the second half.
“I guess they go into a phone booth during halftime and come out a little stronger,” the defensive coordinator said.
Sevier County hasn’t allowed a point in the second half through two games this season. Ratledge’s group was huge in the fourth quarter last week, stopping Morristown East four times in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. The Hurricanes got just one first down over their last three drives.
“That honestly saved our game,” said defensive end Seth Arwood. “It was rough. I was going both ways. I was wheezing by about two plays in. It was rough.”
The Bears (2-0) will need that kind of effort tonight when they travel to Kingsport to face rival Dobyns-Bennett (2-1). The Indians handed Sevier County its only regular-season loss a year ago, putting up more than 50 points on this same defense.
Ratledge said the problem then was missed tackles — 35 of them. The Bears played better in the postseason, but still lost. They’ll need to wrap up tonight.
“I remember we missed a lot of tackles,” said Connor Bailey, who has 12 tackles this season. “That’s what hurt us. They play extremely hard and they run the ball extremely hard. They’re not going to go down if you don’t wrap up and get to the ball. We’re really going to have to gang tackle.”
Even more important will be playing that way from the start. Ratledge said he’s not sure why the defense has had trouble in the first half, particularly the second quarter.
The good news is the Bears have responded in the second half. After Bearden put up 27 in the opening half of the season, Ratledge said he put some new plays that were already in the playbook into action. A second-half shutout ensued.
“When we go in there we get told we’re doing wrong and what we need to work on,” said sophomore Austin Pope. “We just go out there and play physical. Just get really hyped, I guess.”
Ratledge said the Bears look like a different team in the second half. Sometimes size can be a problem, but the coach called his unit “fighters” who are playing their best when the pressure’s on.
That pressure should be rising tonight against an old rival. Arwood, second on the team to Bailey and Pope with 10 tackles, said he badly wants a win.
“All week I haven’t been able to sleep real well,” he said. “I just want to beat them so bad. I don’t really like them at all.”