Chargers stifle BulldogsPublished 11:55pm Wednesday, April 16, 2014
The Suffolk Chargers have been putting on a showcase this season with their new-look defense, devised and installed by new head coach Tony Bateman.
The semi-professional team’s game Saturday was a prime example of its strength as it defeated the Tri-City Bulldogs 28-8 at the John F. Kennedy Sports Complex.
Bateman, who is also in his fifth year of coaching high school football, identified a key disparity between the two teams.
“I think we were deeper than that team,” he said. “Our No. 2 (string) was as good as their No. 1 in some areas, and in the second half, that began to manifest itself.”
Going into halftime, the Chargers (2-1) were down 8-6. A fumble returned for a touchdown and a two-point conversion had given the Bulldogs the lead.
Suffolk quarterback Walter Boykins ran into the end zone from about five yards out to put his team on the board.
“I knew eventually our offensive line would wear their defensive line out,” he said.
He also expected his offense would get plenty of help from his defense.
“I can’t say enough about our defense,” Bateman said. “With the kind of defense that we play, if our offense scores twice, I don’t believe anybody is going to beat us.”
Of the 22 points scored on the Chargers this season, only eight were against the defense.
Suffolk tied things up when its defense forced a safety, specifically caused by strong-side linebacker Cameron Collier.
With decent field position following Tri-City’s free kick, the Chargers drove down the field, and Boykins scored again, this time on a run of just over 10 yards.
In the fourth quarter, the Suffolk defense scored again, as free safety Kyshaun Merchant took an interception 50 yards for a touchdown.
Bateman described the role of the unique defense.
“We stop the run, and we’re going to sack your quarterback and sack him a lot,” he said, and when the opposing team is forced to throw, then they are doing exactly what his team wants.
Suffolk has racked up 14 sacks in three weeks, led by strong side defensive end Nickson Joseph with five.
The powerful defensive line includes Devante Dukes, Adrian White, Adrian Odom, Floyd Clark, Mike Burns, Cameron Collier and Nickson Joseph.
Their talent opens doors for other players to come at the quarterback without a blocker.
The leading tackler on the defense is Gary Bush with 26 total, 19 solo.
The Chargers are also equipped with a dangerous secondary, including Tarrell Lassiter, Kyshaun Merchant, Kendall Mooney and Swendell Stephens.
Of the defense’s eight forced turnovers this season, five of them were off interceptions, three of which have been caught by Lassiter.
The offense has standouts, too. Bateman cited Boykins at quarterback, and Merchant, who serves as the team’s most dependable receiver and is also a good punter. Lassiter is a key receiver, too.
“Josh Walker has really emerged as a running back this past week,” Bateman said.
Though he did not carry the ball during the first half on Saturday, LaShawn “Josh” Walker still ended had 11 carries for 79 yards and a touchdown. He put up the final points of the day on a 20-yard scoring run.
Bateman, who is an assistant coach at Deep Creek High School, had been unable to take the job last year, when he was originally approached about it. Taking over the reins after a losing season, he has energized the team.
“It takes somebody that is willing to do it not for the money, but for the love of the game and for the love of those participating,” he said. “You have to genuinely care about these young men.”
The Chargers are primed to take on their chief division rival, the Portsmouth Mustangs (3-0), on Saturday at the JFK Sports Complex.