Clear Creek Amana junior Cole WhiteBy Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
TIFFIN – With three starters returning the Clear Creek Amana defensive line wasn’t in need of a massive overhaul this season.
More like a tune-up.
With a few minor adjustments the Clipper front four has become the engine that is driving one of the stingiest defense in the state.
“We always say that is starts up front on both sides of the ball,” Clear Creek Amana senior defensive tackle Max Moore said. “I think in our heads we knew it but we never really told each other how good we could be. Now we are showing how good we can be.”
A change in philosophy, a few position switches and some improved depth have helped Clear Creek Amana turn its defensive front into the strength of a defense that ranks among the best in Class 3A.
Entering Friday’s Class 3A District 4 matchup with Center Point-Urbana (2-2) the defensive numbers for Clear Creek Amana jump off the page.
Clear Creek Amana is limiting opponents to five points and 177 total yards per game during its first 4-0 start under Matt and Ronnie Hughes.
“Everybody is going to the ball which is what we want as a defense,” junior defensive end Cole White said. “That’s what we want is 11 guys to the ball and that’s what we are doing.”
Clear Creek Amana senior Max Moore
The defensive line has been one of the biggest reasons for the impressive start.
All four starters on the defensive line rank in the top six on the team in tackles and the Clippers have already nearly matched their sack total from a season ago.
One reason for the success up front has been a new philosophy defensive coordinator Mark Mitchell and defensive line coach Matt Hoch implemented this season.
“It’s a different philosophy than we have run in the past, they are playing the run first and it is just different steps,” Clear Creek Amana coach Matt Hughes explained. “It’s been them being coachable and listening to what coach Hoch and coach Mitchell and the defensive staff is asking them to do and then going out and executing.”
There are plenty of other factors behind the dominating start from the Clipper defensive line.
Three players returned with starting experience from a Clipper front that helped limit opponents to 132 yards rushing during a 5-5 season a year ago.
Senior tackle Ethan Taylor and juniors White and Tanner Cochran all returned bigger, stronger and more experienced after starting last season.
“I feel like I’m 10 times the player I was last year,” Cochran said. “We all feel like that. We’ve just been improving together as a team.”
A few tweaks to the lineup have paid big dividends.
Clear Creek Amana junior Tanner Cochran
A starter on the offensive line each of the past two seasons, Moore became a two-way player for the first time in his varsity career joining Taylor at tackle.
The 6-1, 220-pound Moore has teamed with Taylor (6-0, 240) to give the Clippers a stout pair of run stoppers.
Taylor ranks third on the team with 15 tackles and Moore is sixth with 12.5 tackles.
The two senior tackles have been critical in helping the Clippers hold opponents to 98 rushing yards per game.
“I always thought I was way better at offense but this year defense has been my game,” Moore said. “I’ve been having a lot of fun with it.”
The addition of Moore allowed White (5-10, 220) to move from tackle to defensive end where he has excelled.
White has racked up a team-high seven sacks this season from his defensive end spot and ranks second on the team with 16 tackles, half of which have come behind the line of scrimmage.
“Last year I was inside and this year I’m outside so it helps me a little bit having a little bit more freedom,” White said. “Playing defensive tackle I got beaten up a lot but that’s what helped the team the most so I was fine with it. This year helping the most was going outside and I was excited about that.”
White has had plenty of help up front.
His counterpart at defensive end Cochran (6-0, 190) has is fifth on the team with 13.5 tackles and second with three sacks.
Cochran made 17.5 tackles all of last season and didn’t have a sack.
“We work on pass rush moves every day, coach calls it adding to your tool box,” Cochran said. “You add a new tool every day, every day you learn a new move, get faster with it and try to make that tool box a little bit bigger.”
Behind White and Cochran the Clippers have nearly hit their sack mark from a season ago in four games.
After recording 20 sacks last year the Clippers getting to the opposing quarterback 17 times through four games.
Eight different players have recorded a sack this season for the Clippers including all four starters on the defensive line.
“We all worked a lot during the off-season with coach Hoch making sure that we get a ton of pass rush in,” White said. “I think that has helped.”
Perhaps the biggest boost to the Clipper defensive line has been some much needed depth.
Senior Tyreke Williams and junior Ty Wright have combined for five solo stops this season while rotating in along the line on a regular basis.
The ability to play fresh bodies on the defensive line has been important for a team that features plenty of two-way starters.
“That’s huge for us because the thing that we ask is that you give 100 percent every play and if you can only give 80 percent then we can get somebody in because we have guys that can go in and give 100 percent,” Matt Hughes said. “That’s been a huge part of our success is having that depth that we can rely on.”