Defensive back core proves vital to successful season
Secondary leads BVC with 20 interceptions
The Comet secondary has grabbed at least one interception in seven of the squad’s eight games played this season. Under the leadership of defensive back coach Pat Henderson (right), the defensive back unit has formed a brotherhood on and off the field. George Morin / The Advocate
In football, a solid defensive backfield is valuable as it acts as the backbone for any strong defense.
That is the case for Contra Costa College's secondary as the unit has made a statement so far this season. It has helped CCC's defense dominate opponents by making several big plays with its interceptions and fumble recoveries.
"The DBs are the heart and soul of this defense," defensive back Carvonte Hill said. "(Defensive back) coach Pat (Henderson) did so much with us during the off season and got us ready for this year."
Allowing only 266 yards a game to opponents, the Comet defense is currently ranked first in the state in that category. It has carried the team to a 5-3 overall record and first place in the Bay Valley Conference with a 3-0 record.
Although CCC, as a defensive unit, has played well this season, it has been the defensive back core that has fueled the defense.
Nabbing 19 of the Comets' 20 interceptions, recovering five fumbles, and returning four of those turnovers for touchdowns, has bolstered CCC's tenacity as a team.
Due to the secondary's ball hawking abilities, they were nicknamed "The Money Team" by assistant coach Vardell Larkins, Henderson said.
"(The Money Team) was a little something coach Larkins came up with to get them going," Henderson said. "They have come a long way this season, but we still have (room for improvement)."
"We try not to leave money (turnover opportunities) on the field," he said. "Once the ball is in the air, we all fight for it. Everything with us is a competition."
Starting cornerbacks Tyran "Smiley" Finley, Ransom Cook and Dominique Harrison, as well as safety Anthony Beaver Jr., head the secondary.
Defensive backs Antoine Pickett, Avion Brown, John Lewis, Daquan Stewart, Malique Earl, Alonzo Cudjo, Quintarius Moultrie, Christopher Brown, Terrance Alexander and Hill round out the group that has set the tone for the Comet defense.
"These (defensive backs) are fast, quick and swarm toward the ball," Comet defensive coordinator Otis Yelverton said. "They may not be as football savvy as last season's group, but they are more athletic."
Prior to the 2012 season, the Comets lost last season's defensive backs Devin Brown, Clordion Kennedy, Isaac Goins, Cameron Fuller and Malcolm Ajayi to Division 1 colleges.
Comet coach Alonzo Carter said he was not sure if his current defensive backs would match their intensity.
"We knew (prior to the season) that we would be strong up front on our defensive line and linebackers," Carter said. "We lost five guys out of the secondary to D-1 schools. I didn't know how I would be able to replace them."
Harrison said that the 2011 defensive back core set the standard of how the secondary should play at CCC.
"I feel our group is just as good as last season's (DBs)," the freshman said. "We have the same attributes so we're comparable."
Entering the off season, none of the defensive backs had any experience playing with each other, which proved to be a hard task for them, Finley said.
"In the beginning, it was a little shaky getting our communication down," the Alabama native said. "Coming from out of state it was hard meshing personalities together because the out-of-state guys and the guys from California would butt heads."
Cook can relate to Finley because Cook moved from Florida to California in 2011.
"It was different playing together at first and it took a little bit of work to get the chemistry going," Cook said. "(The guys out of state) had to remember what we came out to California for, so we were able to grind harder."
With the help of Henderson, Larkins and assistant coach James Johnson, the Comet defensive back unit was able to create a family-like bond during the off season.
"It's like a brotherhood. Sometimes we fight but we have each other's backs," Hill said.
Beaver Jr. said the group spends time together on and off the field.
"We're all real close. We're like brothers," Beaver said. "(That bond) translates to how we play on the field."
So far this season, the Comets have forced at least one interception in seven of their eight contests, recording a season high six picks in a 13-10 home win against De Anza College.
Finley currently leads the Comets with four interceptions. Beaver and Harrison are tied with three interceptions. Cook has two interceptions while seven defensive backs and defensive lineman Mike Douglas are tied with one interception apiece.
Carter said that part of the reason his defensive back core has found success finding the ball is due to their experiences playing offense in high school.
"We have ball hawks on this team. I got the concept to play offensive players in the defensive backfield from a D-1 coach who switched a former running back of mine to cornerback," Carter said. "You always want somebody who can make a play in the defensive backfield. Because some of them have an offensive mentality, they are like sharks for the ball."
Harrison said by playing as a wide receiver and running track at Tracy High School, playing his defensive position with the Comets has been easy.
"I used to play receiver in high school so the thing that comes to mind when I get an interception is to get a touchdown," Harrison said. "I can read a receiver's body language and once I get the ball and (head) up the sideline I know I can score with my speed."
Carter said almost all of the defensive backs can run 40 yards in 4.4 seconds.
Carter said that he is proud of his secondary unit's performance so far this season.
"Our DBs make the offense better in practices. They feed off each other," Carter said. "Last year's secondary set the standard for this year's group and now, it is spilling over to the younger guys on the team."
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