There’s plenty of ways to win a state football title in Texas, and scoring a lot of points on offense usually plays a big role.
For the Prosper Eagles, a well-known motto is the foundation of their success — “defense wins championships.”
Prosper’s defense has allowed just 53 points through the first three games of the season, the second-fewest in all of District 14-5A. That includes seven forced turnovers and six interceptions.
Head coach Brandon Schmidt, along with the rest of his staff, attribute the unit’s success to a steady mindset in each week of preparation.
“We just want to be relentless for 48 minutes,” Schmidt said. “We want to play four quarters. It’s important to our kids.”
Like many other successful teams, the Eagles are experienced at each level on defense. A trio of All-Region selections have returned for their senior seasons in 2017, including safety Blake Harrington, cornerback Armon Johnson and linebacker Justin Benvie. Along with them, fellow senior Jevin Jackson leads an otherwise young defensive line.
Prosper’s 3-4 scheme is solidified by stellar coverage on the back end. Harrington and Johnson both became starters in their sophomore years and are now the clear-cut leaders of a talented group of defensive backs. While Johnson takes on the opposing team’s number one receiver, Harrington mans the middle, always watching the quarterback’s eyes to anticipate where the ball is going.
“We can go to another level with those two just because they know so much,” cornerbacks coach John Brinkley said. “They’re smart. They’re almost like coaches on the field. They’re fun to coach and fun to be around.”
The duo intercepted Boerne-Champion quarterback and Tulsa commit Davis Brin three times in the season opener. Harrington said that was a result of focus and preparation, especially during film sessions throughout the week.
“We can tell what plays they’re most likely to run and figure out what we’re going to see before the ball is even snapped,” Harrington said. “We have an advantage there.”
While the defensive line makes pre-snap shifts, the linebackers and defensive backs often show certain coverages to disguise something completely different. This keeps the opposing offense on their heels, especially at the quarterback position. It certainly helps to have a talent like Johnson lining up outside the numbers, someone Schmidt called a “stud” and “shutdown corner.”
Brinkley said the secondary’s high level of play allows more room for error in the front seven. They’ve held their own end of the bargain thus far, allowing only three rushing touchdowns in as many games.
Benvie calls most of the plays at the middle linebacker position and provides the fuel to the fire. In the running game, Benvie’s range covered the field from sideline to sideline, making it tough for running backs to get to the edge. He’s also solid on passing downs and recently showed off his ability with an 11-yard interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter against Frisco Liberty on Sept. 15, giving Prosper a big spark on the way to a blowout victory.
“It’s all about having that inner dog mindset,” Benvie said. “Everything’s downhill. You’ve just got to hit them in the face, that’s all.”
Interceptions have often been a result of pressure created from Prosper’s defensive line. Senior Jevin Jackson leads the way and said seeing teammates make big plays can be infectious.
“If Blake makes a great play, I’m excited for him. If I do the same thing, they’ll get excited for me,” Jackson said. “We all feed off each other’s energy and want to see each other do great things.”
The style of play on offense for the Eagles fits well along with the aggressive attitude of the defense. Prosper has leaned heavily on the running game thus far and have five players with over 100 yards on the season. Running the ball successfully creates long, sustained drives, giving the defense a chance to stay fresh on the sideline without getting worn out at the end of games.
Moving forward, Prosper looks to continue their level of play against district opponents. In 2016, the defense held district teams to fewer than 17 points per game and only lost once.
The Eagles face off against Little Elm (3-0) at home on Friday, Sept. 29. The Lobos have scored the most points and allowed the fewest of any team in the district thus far and are the only undefeated team remaining. It’ll be a tough task, but Jackson and the rest of the defense are ready for the challenge.
“When it gets to game time, things are natural for us,” Jackson said. “We can just go out and play.”