Defensive success a team effort for Haddonfield football

The Bulldawgs’ defense have allowed just one touchdown in three games so far in 2018.

№28 Lewis Evans and №6 Gabe Klaus combine to tackle Cinnaminson’s Rashad Raymond during the Bulldawgs’ 21–0 win over the Pirates on Friday night.

The defense for Haddonfield Memorial High School football has been close to perfect so far in 2018.

Haddonfield has allowed just 14 points in three games this season. The Bulldawgs’ defense has allowed just one score, a rushing touchdown in their first game against Pleasantville High School. The only other points Haddonfield has allowed came on a kickoff return touchdown against Sterling High School in week two. After shutting out previously undefeated Cinnaminson High School, 21–0, on Friday, Haddonfield’s defense has allowed just one touchdown in 12 quarters.

“If you ask them…it’s one touchdown too many,” head coach Frank DeLano said with a laugh.

Strong defense is nothing new for Haddonfield. During the team’s 2017 championship season, the Bulldawgs held opponents to eight points or less in six of the team’s 12 games. Many of the team’s key defensive players from last year returned this year and are performing well again in 2018.

“We just have a ton of depth out here, a ton of returning players,” said senior defensive lineman James Kane, who recorded a sack in the win over Cinnaminson. “And everyone can play. Everyone who gets on the field can play.”

The defensive contributions have come from a number of different players. In the opening game at Pleasantville, Drew Gavranich returned an interception for a touchdown and recovered a blocked punt for another touchdown. Against Sterling, Gabe Klaus was a standout as he recorded four sacks. Senior cornerback Davis Smith has been solid, grabbing interceptions in two of Haddonfield’s first three games. Senior linebacker Lewis Evans is again one of the team’s top defenders, leading Haddonfield with 28 total tackles after recording 88 of them in 2017.

DeLano believes the team’s success comes from the players focusing on team success rather than individual statistics.

“Any given night, you can be the hero,” DeLano said. “But at the end for them, they don’t care, as long as the left side (of that scoreboard) has more than the right, they’re happy. I think the selflessness in our team, it’s starting to come.”

Lewis Evans and Lance Forebaugh celebrate after Haddonfield recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter of Friday’s game.

That selflessness was apparent on defense Friday as the Bulldawgs shut down Cinnaminson running back Rashad Raymond. Raymond entered the game with more than 400 yards on the ground in the first two weeks, but the Bulldawgs held him to only 50 yards.

The key to Haddonfield’s success was their domination of the line of scrimmage. Up front, the Bulldawgs spent the night bottling up Raymond behind or near the line of scrimmage.

“We were playing a little more inside on the D-line to try and shut down that inside run game,” Kane said. “But we were really coming out here and preparing for the opponent the same way.”

“Our guys were flying around,” DeLano said. “Anytime you can pitch a shutout, you’re really really excited about it. That was a really talented football team.”

Numerous challenges still await Haddonfield this season. The team will play one of the region’s top team, St. Joseph’s High School in Hammonton, on Sept. 29. The following week, the Bulldawgs will host rival West Deptford High School on Oct. 5 in a rematch of last year’s South Jersey Group II championship.

“We’re excited with where we are,” DeLano said. “But it’s a long season. It’s only week three. This wasn’t our only goal. It was one of them, though.”