December 1, 2004
One of Hamilton's challenges in its attempt to defend its 5A state football championship this season has been rebuilding a good portion of its defense. With just one more test to pass, the revamped unit has proven capable of a repeat.
One of the keys has been retooling the linebacking corps. Two newcomers to the linebacking unit (senior Miles Posz and junior Gerald Munns) have combined with veteran Jimmy Rogers to form the nucleus of a Hamilton defense that at times bends, but rarely breaks.
‘‘The leader of our team is Jimmy Rogers,’’ Hamilton coach John Wrenn said. ‘‘He is the heart and soul of the defense.’’
Rogers, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound senior and three-year starter, is the lone returning starter from the 2003 linebacking corps that outlasted Mountain View 35-28 in triple overtime for the title at Sun Devil Stadium.
Heading into the Saturday’s championship game against Glendale Mountain Ridge, Rogers is the Huskies' defensive points leader this season and second in his career only to former standout linebacker Michael McDonald, who he could pass in that category with a solid showing in the title game.
Rogers, an outside linebacker, leads Hamilton in defensive points with 206 and has contributed in 10 of the 12 categories that score points in the Huskies’ grading system.
The only categories he hasn't contributed in are scoring a touchdown and scoring a safety.
Rogers has been good friends with Posz since their Pop Warner days when both played linebacker and running back.
Rogers knew little about Munns prior to this season.
But after playing 13 games with him, he now knows plenty and it’s all good.
‘‘Miles had the (defensive) concept last year playing another position,’’ Rogers said. ‘‘It's been a great privilege to play with Gerald Munns this season and watch him pick things up so well.’’
Munns, who transferred from Basha High last winter, ranks third on the team in defensive points (169.5) and leads in assisted tackles (79) from his outside linebacker spot.
‘‘He’s an extremely smart kid and a quiet leader,’’ Wrenn said. ‘‘He’s played far and above what we thought he’d do in his first year.’’
At 6-1, 218 pounds, Munns is the biggest of the three, but has felt the shock of the shift from junior varsity play to varsity.
‘‘It's been a lot different experience for me this year,’’ Munns said. ‘‘Playing for a state title contender and on varsity, it's so different. The intensity of varsity, you can't afford to take a play off. I think ever since the second half of the Gilbert game (Week 9), we’ve been playing our best defense of the year.’’
At middle linebacker is Posz, a defensive starter last year as a down lineman.
With a superb linebacking corps of Adam Vincent, Rogers and Mark Gruner in 2003, there wasn’t a spot for Posz in the second tier of the defense.
But he filled in most of the season for then-injured senior Jeremiah Nelson on the defensive front.
This year, Posz has filled the bill most capably in his varsity linebacker debut.
He is right behind Rogers in defensive points at 184.5 and leads the team in total tackles (114). ‘‘Linebacker is Miles' position,’’ Wrenn said. ‘‘He was the best fit for what we needed on the defensive line last year. He’s a big, strong physical type kid.’’
As a group, Wrenn rates the current trio of ’backers as very good. How they stack up against an explosive Mountain Ridge offense, which has gone wild the second half of the season and particularly in the postseason, will define the 2004 Huskies defense.
‘‘They are right up there with our groups of the past,’’ Wrenn said. ‘‘The jury is out until we see how they do in this last game. It’s a great challenge for them and our defense.’’