Note: This preview appears in the Thursday, Nov. 14 newspaper on Page A6.
Southern tailback Dylan Milhoan took a carry off right tackle on the first play of last Friday’s playoff opener against Trimble.
Milhoan tried to cut back toward the middle of the field in an effort to find a running lane.
Shawn Turley was there to greet him.
Turley, who was chasing the play down from his defensive tackle position, delivered a big hit on Milhoan, stopping him in his tracks.
“That’s just, welcome to Glouster,” Turley said. “That’s all it was. I found myself in a good opportunity to lay a good hit on somebody and I just did.”
Turley set the tone in the 26-14 playoff win over the Indians. The 5-foot-10, 225-pound senior has been doing it all season long.
Turley is a run stopper on defense as a tackle. On offense, he’s a left guard who has the athleticism to pull to lead the way for a Tomcat ball carrier, or the physicality to blow a defender off the ball when blocking straight ahead.
“He’s a solid body,” Trimble coach Phil Faires said. “Did a good job lifting this year. He might not be as big as some people, some other tackles, but he just does a great job.”
Turley might not lead the team in tackles, but if linebackers like Sawyer Koons are cleaning up, then chances are Turley is doing his job.
“If I’m getting blocked, I’d rather have two people on me, that way the linemen can’t run off and get our linebackers, then break a play,” Turley said. “Our linebackers, like Sawyer, he’s the leader of the defense, he’s the one flying up in there, and he’s going to make 90 percent of our tackles, at least he should, if our d-line plays good.”
That Trimble defensive line — with Ian Joyce, Zach Guffey, Jack Nagucki and Tabor Lackey — have done the job all season.
Turley is usually in the middle of the action, making life difficult for opposing offensive linemen.
“The way our defense is, Sawyer at linebacker behind him, his job is to stop the run and keep guys off of Sawyer and he does a great job of that,” Faires said. “He’s not just a big body in there. He’s an athlete.”
The same is true on the offensive end. Turley and Joyce serve as the Tomcats’ guards. With the run-heavy wishbone, a lot is asked of them to clear the way for running back Conner Wright and quarterback Cameron Kittle.
“We don’t just have to be straight ahead,” Faires said. “We run our counters. The guards pull. Even in our passing, one of them is pulling all the time and we’re lucky to have two good athletes at guard. They’re pretty fast.”
Turley embraces the physical nature of Trimble football. Whether he’s taking up bodies on the defensive end, or pancaking a defender on the offensive end, Turley is always in the middle of the action at the line of scrimmage.
“Everybody on that front five including our tight ends, they just want to blow somebody off the ball,” Turley said. “For four quarters straight, blow somebody off the ball. Hey, we’re here, we’re going to run you down al night long.”
The statistics back up Turley’s claims. The Tomcats average 312.3 yards rushing per game behind their veteran offensive line.
On the defensive side, the opposition rushes for just 57.1 yards per game.
Turley and the Tomcats are usually winning the line of scrimmage in a big way.
“We’re going to come out and we’re going to hit you in the mouth,” Turley said. “That’s the way we’ve been raised from kindergarten. Flag football, whatever. We’re just going to come out, punch you in the mouth. If you’re going to hit us back, we’re going to take it. We’re going to give you more.”
The Tomcats will be tested again on Friday, when they take on No. 1 New Middletown Springfield at 7 p.m. in a Division VI, Region 21 semifinal at St. Clairsville.
It will be a battle of 11-0 teams, as Trimble tries to navigate its way to a second straight trip to the state championship game.
Trimble was practicing in blistering cold on Tuesday. Turley said the Tomcats want another few weeks of freezing cold practices in a quest for a state title.
“Every senior is ecstatic right now,” Turley said. “We all want to win a state championship. We want to go down as the best class in Trimble history and we believe that we are. We believe that nobody outworks us and nobody is ever going to out work us.”
It’s the kind of attitude every winning team needs out of its run-stuffing defensive tackle, and pulling guard, that lunch pail mentality that’s helped lead Trimble to 11 wins so far in 2019.