Defensive dominance: Williamstown football’s ‘D’ putting up eye-popping numbers

Williamstown’s defense is red-hot entering the playoffs after shutting out more than half of its opponents in the regular season.

Williamstown’s No. 11 Donovan Ezeiruaku and No. 27 Joseph Racobaldo wrap up Shawnee’s Jake Barnett during the Braves’ 17-0 victory over the Renegades. The win was Williamstown’s fifth shutout of the season.

For Williamstown football’s vaunted defense, the numbers speak for themselves.

Williamstown’s defense was on a torrid pace entering the final week of the regular season. The Braves’ 17-0 win at Shawnee on Oct. 25 was the team’s fifth shutout of the season, the most in South Jersey. Through eight games, the Braves allowed 4.4 points per game, the fewest in the West Jersey Football League. No team has averaged fewer than five points allowed per game for an entire season in the past five years. Only one team this season —

Lenape on Sept. 27 — scored more than seven points against Williamstown entering the team’s Nov. 1 game at St. Augustine.

“Our defense is just elite,” senior defensive lineman Aaron Lewis said. “There’s not even words to describe what our defense can do.”

The Braves’ defense has the team rolling entering the postseason. Williamstown started the season with wins in its first eight games and are favored to repeat as South Jersey Group 5 champions.

The strength of the Williamstown defense begins up front with the defensive line. Lewis and fellow defensive lineman Donovan Ezeiruaku have been two of the biggest forces behind the Braves’ pass rush. Ezeiruaku led Williamstown with 6.5 sacks in the team’s first eight games and Lewis was right behind him with six sacks. In the Shawnee win, Ezeiruaku had two of the Braves’ three sacks in the game, as Williamstown had Renegades quarterback Matt Welsey on the run most of the night.

Williamstown’s Aaron Lewis escapes the block of Shawnee’s Brett Hilgetag during the Braves’ 17-0 victory over the Renegades. A University of Michigan commit, Lewis recorded six sacks in Williamstown’s first eight games.

“We’re a high-paced team,” Lewis said. “I knew if we punched them in the mouth, they wouldn’t have a response for us. And that’s what we did.”

The Braves’ defense has been able to dominate despite missing a few key pieces due to injury. Linebacker Brandon Perkins has been out of Williamstown’s lineup since late September and defensive back Brody Colbert missed the Shawnee game on Oct. 25.

“We’re missing two key players and we’re still firing,” Ezeiruaku said. “We’re looking strong going into the playoffs.”

Ezeiruaku believes the defense has continued to succeed despite the injuries because of its depth and ability to come together in the locker room. Lewis added Williamstown has an approach where the players don’t rest on their accomplishments from previous games.

“Guys are just humble on this team,” Lewis said. “They just get hungrier and hungrier every week. We have this thing called the 24-hour rule. After 24 hours, its done, win or loss. We forget it and just move on to the next game. The guys really live by that rule.”

Following the Shawnee victory, Ezeiruaku mentioned each defensive player gets a hatchet sticker to place on his helmet for each shutout the team records. The five shutouts have led to a lot of hatchets handed out in 2019.

Ezeiruaku also knows the Braves, after clinching a share of the WJFL American Division title on Oct. 25, have a long road ahead of them this postseason. After Williamstown fell to Sayreville in the first-ever South/Central Group 5 bowl game at MetLife Stadium last year, the Braves have a bigger goal this year: repeat as sectional champions and then finish the job with a win in the Meadowlands.

“It’s another piece of the pie,” Ezeiruaku said of the conference title. “We want it all. We want to go back to MetLife, we want to make it right.”

“We’ve got the best defense in Jersey, that’s a fact right there,” Lewis added. “We’re gonna hold teams and when the offense is flowing, I don’t think there’s a team in Jersey that can beat us.”