Defense, defense, defense

04/23/03 Brandon Sykes

The only thing you can say about Saturday’s game against Fort Wayne is DEFENSE!  This was the best game so far this year for the RiverHawks defense.  With a few new faces Vic Wharton emerged onto the field.  This is Wharton’s third season with the Knoxville franchise and he hasn’t missed a step.  One old face that quarterbacks remember is defensive end Ben McCombs.  McCombs with his Jevon Kearse like appearance, dominated most of the game.  The only thing that the offensive line could do is hold him and hold him they did.  There were at least two holding penalties against Fort Wayne on McCombs’ side of the field.  McCombs says, “I felt like my pass rush is improving every game as well as the rest of the defensive line”.  McCombs gained 20lbs. and increased his 40 time over the off-season.  During the game McCombs had one sack, caused one fumble, and blocked one field goal, if you want to say that.  On fourth down on the Fort Wayne 5-yard line the Freedom decided to kick a field goal.  At the snap McCombs blew his man off of the line of scrimmage and pushed him back into the backfield where the ball hit the offensive lineman in the back and bounced to the back of the end zone for a safety.  McCombs recalls this play, “When I lined up I noticed there was not a lot of room for the kicker.  I felt that if I could get back there I could block the kick.  I don’t think he thought I was coming since there was a possible return for our team.  I simply overpowered him and pushed him back into the kicker”.  The Hawks have finally put together a defense geared on working together and bringing hard hits on the field. 

The offense feeding off of the defenses success played a complete game with quarterback Steve Christie behind center.  This was the first full game Christie has played this year and he did not disappoint anyone.  Christie was 8 of 14 for 150 yards and one touchdown.  He also rushed for a score, sacrificing his body for six points.  When asking Christie about being named the starting quarterback for this game he said, “It’s nice knowing what your role is with the team.  I feel that it is good for team chemistry to know who your quarterback will be for the entire game”.  Christie also complemented his teammates saying that his offensive line gave him plenty of time and he knew where each of his receivers were going to be when he threw the ball.  This game was an important one for the Hawks; this moves them into a tie for second place in their division.  A win this Saturday will move the Hawks into sole possession of second place.

Looking ahead to the match-up with Lexington, the Hawks defense will have its biggest challenge in Dusty Bonner.   Bonner’s name is familiar to many Tennessee fans since he played at the University of Kentucky, but what about players that are not from Tennessee?  McCombs, who is not a Tennessee native says this about Bonner this weekend, “His name doesn’t mean anything, I will come hard every play no matter what.  His is going to have to prove it, cause I’m going to be in his face all night”.

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