By Liberty Christian football coach Mike Olson’s standards, his defense has played 10 great games this season.
He’s hoping that come Saturday at the Tacoma Dome, against Neah Bay for the Class 1B state championship (kickoff is at 4 p.m.), his defense has one more great game in it.
Eight-man football has always had the nickname of being “a track meet in football cleats,” of offensive shootouts in which winners can score 10 touchdowns and losers might have eight or nine.
But in the Patriots’ world, defense has its pride.
Olson tries to put his eight fastest athletes on the defensive side of the ball and then let them work.
“We’ve had some shutouts (including one this season),” Olson said. “But realistically, when you play a good team, if you give up 20 points or less, you’re doing a good job.”
For Liberty Christian (12-0), 10 of its games have been contests where that has happened.
“You have to do things the right way,” Olson said. “You can’t give up the big play. You have to create turnovers. We get about two or three every game.”
Two of Olson’s biggest defensive stars are senior defensive ends Cody Daniels and Robby Heimann.
“They’ve done such a great job,” Olson said. “Without them, we wouldn’t be near as successful as we have been.
“Going on four years, they’re the best defensive ends we’ve ever had.”
While both have had their moments offensively this season, it is defense that is their first love.
“John (Lesser) takes the spotlight on offense,” said Daniels, who has played running back and receiver. “The only time we get to shine is on defense.”
Heimann, who also plays tight end, would rather hit than be hit.
“It’s fun to hit a guy and make him suffer,” Heimann said.
The Patriots run a 3-4-1 defense, and in Olson’s scheme, it’s the defensive ends who control the play.
Divide the field into three slices. The defensive ends don’t allow anyone to go to either of the outside thirds and try to push play to the middle.
“They’re the key to our defense, because what they do, they kind of block off that side of the field,” Olson said. “That allows the other kids to make the play.”
And Daniels and Heimann are even tougher when a quarterback passes.
“When a team is pretty good at throwing the football,” Olson said, “they put a lot of pressure on the quarterback.”
A lot of pressure.
Daniels’ goal is simple.
“Don’t let the quarterback beat us outside,” he said.
Heimann is more specific.
“I want four quarterback sacks a game,” Heimann proclaimed.
That elicits a chuckle from the reporter — until he sees his stats.
“I think he has 32 sacks,” Olson said. “It might even be up around a state record. And Cody has 16. That would be a great season for anyone.”
Statistics aside, Daniels and Heimann are only interested in one thing: a bigger number on the scoreboard Saturday night than what Neah Bay has.
After winning the state 1B title in 2012 — coincidentally, against Neah Bay — the Patriots were unceremoniously eliminated in a state play-in game last fall, losing to Cusick 54-40.
“After we lost last year, we knew we would come back this year,” Daniels said.
“It’s a bitter taste in your mouth,” Heimann said. “Cody has reminded me of that all season. Remember that bitter taste of losing we had last year.”
Neither wants to taste it again.