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Seventy-First coach emphasizes defense as key to success on the field

Picks of the week: Cape Fear, Pine Forest looking strong

Veterans Amire Drummond at defensive back, left, and Hector Bautista at defensive end are key players for Seventy-First this year.
Veterans Amire Drummond at defensive back, left, and Hector Bautista at defensive end are key players for Seventy-First this year.
Contributed photos

Seventy-First head football coach Duran McLaurin can’t speak for the philosophies of his fellow coaches, but when it comes to building a defense, he knows the plan that consistently works for him.

“We normally take our best 11 athletes, unless it’s a quarterback, and find somewhere for them to play on the defense,” he said.

McLaurin has another important rule he uses when evaluating defensive talent, a maxim of a lot of defensive-minded coaches. He said a player’s importance on defense is measured by how far away he is from the ball carrier when the whistle blows.

“If you’re not around that football, you can’t play defense here,” he said.

A year ago, en route to a 14-1 record that ended in a 23-22 playoff loss to Northern Nash, McLaurin's Falcons allowed just 9.4 points per game.

After a 2-0 start this season, the figure is 10.0, with wins over perennial power Richmond Senior and two-time All American Conference champion Pine Forest.

McLaurin is looking to do better than the 2022 numbers.

The defensive line and linebackers -- what he calls the box -- return intact from the 2022 season.

Graduation hit the Seventy-First secondary hard as three players exited, but with a couple of players advancing from a strong junior varsity team and a few position changes among the returning varsity, McLaurin feels the program is on solid ground.

“All we did was shuffle the deck a little bit but used the same cards,’’ McLaurin said.

A couple of important players on the defensive side are veterans Amire Drummond at defensive back and Hector Bautista at defensive end.

Bautista said the Falcon defenders in the line are not just expected to take on the blocks of the opposing linemen; they are expected to make plays.

“The linebackers have edge control,” Bautista said. “We control everything up the middle. That’s how we play it.”

For the secondary, Drummond said the main concern is simple: Don’t get beat deep.

“We take each game step by step,” he said. “We’re dedicated.”

But Drummond added the Falcons have memories of the painful way last season ended with the narrow defeat by Northern Nash.

“We want to try to get back to where we were,” he said. “Complete the season.”

McLaurin feels this year’s team is ready for any challenge it will face. He plans for the Falcons to take care of any minor injuries players have as they enjoy an open date this week, while also cleaning up some issues on special teams.

“We’re getting better at the things we don’t do well and refining the things that we do,” he said.

This week’s picks

Last week’s record was better, but only because I had one fewer game to pick. I was 5-2, which goes with the first week’s mark of 5-3 for a season total of 10-5, 66.7%.

Here’s this week’s forecast:

  • Terry Sanford at Cape Fear: The Bulldogs are likely to take their second loss of the young season against a Cape Fear team that looked strong in its opening win against Pine Forest. Cape Fear 28, Terry Sanford 14.
  • Douglas Byrd at Hoke County: Byrd fell short against E.E. Smith last week and faces a taller challenge against the Bucks this time. Hoke County 21, Douglas Byrd 7.
  • E. Smith at West Carteret: It will be a long road trip for the Golden Bulls, and I don’t expect the ride home to be enjoyable. West Carteret 22, E.E. Smith 6.
  • Gray’s Creek at Pine Forest: People have been waiting for the real Pine Forest football team to show itself. I think that is likely to happen this week. Pine Forest 17, Gray’s Creek 12.
  • South View at Durham Riverside: The Tigers should continue their hot streak despite a road trip to Riverside. South View 30, Riverside 14.
  • Fairmont at Westover: The Wolverines should cruise to their third straight win. Westover 32, Fairmont 7.

Seventy-First and Jack Britt have open dates.

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