Week four and the dedication of Wakefield Stadium for the McKinley at Perry game. It was good to see Coach Wake (in his customary shorts of course) back on the turf at Perry if only during a brief pregame ceremony. Then it was down to business for a very competitive and close game between the Panthers and Bulldogs – the Federal League opener for both teams.
The game had it all, a comeback, big plays, great effort and was not decided until the end. But what stood out for me was the defensive play by McKinley’s Harold Fannin. Harold is a ”huge” defensive back, said to be 6’4” 225 lb. he looks more like a defensive end than a DB until you see him run, then he looks the part. Coach Antonio Hall made a switch to Harold’s position recently to free safety – still a ‘deep back’ but now able to get to the ball carrier no matter if the offense runs weak or strong, kind of like a center fielder in baseball can get to balls in right center or left center field. Boy did that work vs. Perry!
Of course everyone knows Perry is mostly a running team so Fannin, and all the rest of the Bulldog defense, played close to the line of scrimmage, all within 8 yards or so on almost every play. This is to stop the run, which Perry does very well. It leaves you vulnerable vs. the pass but you have to pick your poison to stop a good offense. Now the good part, at least for Bulldog fans. Harold Fannin not only made a lot of tackles – we had him unofficially for 12 solos (he made the tackle all by himself) and 3 assists (he made a tackle along with other teammates), it was the way in which he made tackles that impressed me. He not only made a lot of 1 on 1 tackles but he made hard, punishing hits on the ball carriers. I have found that making hard hits on the football field is a learned response.
We are taught as young kids not to run into things so we don’t get hurt. Then football coaches tell us to run into another person as they are trying to run over or around us. Good defensive players learn to do that, and keep their eyes open during a tackle. Really good defensive players learn not to slow down when they approach a ball carrier but rather run thru them, the result is solid, tough tackles. Then you find a very few guys that not only run thru a ball carrier but they accelerate, or explode upon contact. That is when you have big hits that everyone says “Ohhhh” when they see it. I have not seen a defensive back dominate in the run game like Harold did since my middle son, Adam, played free safety in high school ball at Elida near Lima, Ohio in 2002. One game Adam made so many hard hits the other team ended the game playing their 3rd team running back.
In another game the other team’s announcer started saying “tackle by Miller … again!”. He ended up playing LB for Harvard with a couple pretty well known guys, Ryan Fitzpatrick who has started at QB for more NFL teams than any other QB in history and Andrew Berry, the General Manager that has turned around our beloved Cleveland Browns.
It was a joy watching Harold Fannin play last Friday. Especially since I was safe and sound in the press box. Not so much fun to watch him on the field from the other side of the ball!