Seniors Zach Greene, Cameron Todd, Stewart Wooten, and Zach Gentry all leave Leesville this spring to pursue promising academic and athletic careers. Greene, a particularly highly touted recruit heads to Duke on scholarship to play both receiver and cornerback.
Although this secondary group unanimously voted their teammate Strong Side Linebacker (SSL) Mark Walker as the leader of the Leesville defense, their ferocious play in the open field and consistent performance as a cohesive unit this year has helped lead Leesville to a 9-1 record.
Over the years the Leesville defense lead by these seniors has grown into a tight knit group of friends. Off the field Zach Gentry says they all hang out a lot, "I like to hang out with my friends. Stew's one of my good friends—we all like to hang out Mark (SSL), Zach all those guys on the weekend."
Cameron Todd who compares his play to Deon Sanders says he enjoys hanging out with his teammates on the weekends, but like Sanders is also a multi-sport athlete and has to stay focused on other athletics like basketball. "I'm pretty athletic, I play a lot of other sports—pretty much everything," says Cameron.
Indeed it will be tough for this group of friends to go different directions next year. Sophomore Ryan Mangum knows the time for the seniors is running out, "I like to hang out with my brother since he's graduating too, I won't be able to see him much anymore," Perhaps the immanency of this mass exodus, for such a close group of friends is what motivated this Leesville secondary to work so hard in the offseason.
"We did A LOT of reaction drills," says Zach Gentry of their preseason workouts. "We ran our feet, and did a lot of conditioning moving to the ball," recalls Cameron Todd. Indeed much of their offseason was focused on conditioning within coverage drills which combined the intensity of working out their legs, with in-game situations. "We did several 7 on 7 tournaments that I think helped us a lot," mentions Stewart Wooten.
This preseason work ethic, combined with their bruising mentality has made this Leesville Secondary a force to be reckoned with all season. "I like the big hit you know, Just hitting someone real hard—that hits the spot for me," says Stewart Wooten who compares himself to NFL D-back Troy Polamalu. "Yeah I like to meet people at the line of scrimmage, let them know I'm there, and make 'em remember my name," agrees Cameron Todd. Wooten and Todd provide the physical force and hard hits that keep shifty receivers in check, while Gentry and Greene who both compare their style to NFL star "Champ" Bailey, love to defend the pass and get interceptions. This balance has kept offensive units afraid of running to the outside, while also wary of trying the big pass plays.
As if the seniors aren't scary enough, opposing teams must also account for sophomore standout Ryan Mangum who leads the team with 7 interceptions on the season. Mangum's nose for finding the quarterback's target and disrupting the pass is a saving grace for a team that loses four key defensive backs next year. Mangum surely will provide leadership via both his play, and well spoken demeanor for the young D-backs next year—who will have some very large shoes to fill.
For the rest of this 2008 season the Leesville Pride will continue to dominate teams both offensively and defensively in their bid for the playoffs, and perhaps a state title. Surely there will be no shortage of aggressive play and disruptive pass defense from a secondary group that has become the primary weapon of their defense.