How close are the Valley Huskers to having an elite BC Football Conference defence?
Through six games this season, the junior football club is giving up an average of 23.5 points per game. That number alone won’t keep offensive coordinators up at night, but maybe they should be starting to lose some sleep.
“Our defence has been growing and playing some really good football,” said Huskers head coach Bob Reist. “We have a lot of young kids that are learning lessons every week and the big thing you look at is putting their learning into practice and performing better the next week.
“That’s something we talk about in the dressing room is, ‘Where do you want to progress to?’ Right now, there’s no doubt our defence is good, but we want them to be great.”
If you take the first game of the season out of the mix, where the Huskers were tagged for 39 points in a loss to the Okanagan Sun, the most they’ve given up in any one game is 27 to the Langley Rams last Saturday (Oct. 9). Context is needed there, as the Rams scored 14 points off defensive touchdowns.
In fact, of the 141 points conceded by the Huskers this season, 39 have not been the fault of the D.
Twenty-eight have come directly from offensive turnovers, interceptions or fumbles returned for majors. Seven came off a punt return and four came off safeties conceded by the Chilliwack offence. If you take away the 39 points from the week one loss, and the 30 points that have come from defensive scores over the last five weeks, and the Huskers are surrendering just 14.4 points per game.
That number that may not be elite, but it’s really good.
Considering how badly the Huskers offence has struggled, the defence has been put in lots of tough spots and spent way more time on the field than Reist would like.
That they haven’t been caved in is remarkable in itself.
“We’ve been in some tough situations field-position wise,” he acknowledged. “When the offence can’t sustain a drive, that puts the defence into positions you’re not necessarily looking forward to. But they’ve responded well, getting turnovers and creating things themselves. We need to continue leaning on that group to help the offence to get going.”
There is one area of the defence that needs improvement. Elite D creates turnovers. The Huskers have shown promising signs in that area, producing eight takeaways (three fumble recoveries and five interceptions) through six games.
“Going into this week, we’re somewhere around plus-six in turnovers/takeaways, and it’s something we coach every week is to be aggressively looking to create plays,” Reist said. “Whether that’s punching out the football for a fumble or getting an interception, those are things that take a good defence and make it a great defence.”
Coming off a 27-4 road loss at Langley last weekend, the Huskers (3-3) remain on the road for a Saturday game against the winless Broncos (0-5) in Kamloops.
Kickoff is 6 pm at Hillside Stadium.