Stonewalled: Skyridge defense has been historically impenetrable in 2021
Utah high school football historian George Felt did a little digging this week, looking back to put Skyridge’s impressive four-game shutout streak in perspective.
Felt said that, no, the Falcons don’t have the most shutouts to start a season — at least not yet.
That distinction belongs to the 1919 East squad (who shutout all of its opponents) and the 1947 Jordan team, each of whom shut out nine opponents to start the year.
Beaver (1979), Jordan (1948) and Pleasant Grove (1956) started their respective campaigns with six straight shutouts, according to Felt.
That means the 2021 Skyridge squad in a tie for sixth with the 1970 American Fork squad for shutting out the most opponents at the beginning of a season.
But the Falcons — who defeated Fremont (31-0), Woods Cross (49-0), Herriman (23-0) and Orem (36-0) — should be recognized as the first team to accomplish such a feat in 42 years.
Skyridge can also hope that the early success is a harbinger of things to come, since five of the other six teams to start with at least four shutouts went on to win the state title in their respective classification.
So how is Skyridge having such success defensively?
Falcon head coach Jon Lehman said after the win over the Tigers on Sept. 3 that it isn’t by doing anything unique.
“We game plan to get stops,” Lehman said. “It’s not a special recipe. The guys line up, do their jobs, play hard and are unselfish and accountable. It’s hard to win against a tough schedule but our players focus on making one play at a time.”
One of the keys, according to Lehman, has been limiting what opponents have done on first down.
“I’m really happy with how we’ve played on first down,” Lehman said. “That has allowed us to get the other team into third-and-long situations. We’ve only given up a few of those and that has come when the game was in hand. We’ve made plays on those third-and-longs.”
He also credited all of the defenders, whether they are starters or backups, for maintaining there focus even when victory appears to be assured.
“I’m happy with the sustained effort,” Lehman said. “We’ve played tough for all four quarters in each of the games. They could’ve given up and let the other team score but they’ve sustained it.”
Skyridge junior cornerback Smith Snowden explained that the unit has worked hard and now is savoring the fruits of that labor.
“The defense has come together,” Snowden said. “Teamwork has been the biggest thing. It feels great to not give up any points.”
Falcon junior safety Dalton Young said that it wasn’t a sure thing that the defense would play at this level coming into the 2021 season.
“We competed in 7-on-7s and we have young defense, so it was tough,” Young said. “But then it got to the games and things just clicked. Everyone plays football and loves doing it for each other.”
Young said that the defense has developed innate trust in the players around them.
“Everyone is just doing their job,” Young said. “I know that if I do my job and they do their jobs, it’s easy to do what we are doing.”
While Snowden and Young agree that the four-game shutout streak is nice, it isn’t something that is that big of a deal to the players.
“We try not to think about it,” Snowden said. “We just take things day by day and try to play out best, play together.”
With games against potent offenses like Timpview, American Fork, Lone Peak and the defending 6A champs from Corner Canyon on the schedule, the Skyridge players are realistic when talking about continuing the shutout streak.
“Those are some great offenses,” Young said. “It’s crazy. We know we are going to have to be better.”
The two Falcon juniors said basically the same thing when asked how they will handle it if someone is able to finally get some points.
“You have to forget about the past,” Snowden said. “Big plays happen. You just move on to the next play.”
Young said: “It’s about the next play. You don’t even think about it.”
The Falcons will see if they can extend their shutout streak to five games when they play at Timpview on Friday night at 7 p.m.