Friday, November 12, 1999

Beechwood's stingy defense puts foes at loss

Enquirer contributor

        The Beechwood defense's favorite number is zero. Entering tonight's Class A second-round home playoff game against Ludlow, the Tigers (9-2) have shut out seven opponents.

        Beechwood has allowed just 68 points (6.2 per game) and an average of 156 yards a game. During the regular season, Beechwood's defense was the second-stingiest in the state behind Bellevue's.

        “I didn't figure we'd get seven shutouts,” senior linebacker Jerry Ramundo said.

        As dominant as the defense is, coach Mike Yeagle doesn't keep tackling statistics. He thinks they cause his players to forget their assignments.

        “If they're running all over the field worrying about tackling points, they're not doing their job,” Yeagle said.

        Beechwood's primary objective is to stop the run, and the Tigers have a large front line: senior tackles Matt Mercer (6-foot-5, 286 pounds) and Matt Wagner (6-foot, 273); junior nose guard Drew Matracia (5-9, 238), and senior ends Matt Campbell (6-2, 186) and Matt Duncan (6-3, 218).

        Ramundo rotates at linebacker with seniors Ben List and Joey Hampel and junior Brett Weber. Yeagle calls Ramundo a warrior.

        “It means the tougher and nastier it gets, the better he plays,” Yeagle said. “He does it every Friday night. Plus, he's very unselfish.”

        Seniors Preston Long and Josh Kaiser and junior Mike Nie make up the secondary. Long leads the team with six interceptions.

        “Preston Long is the quietest leader I've ever seen; he's all business,” Yeagle said.

        Long attributes his interceptions partly to also being a wide receiver.

        “It works on my speed and cutting ability,” Long said. “You understand the receiver a lot more on defense.”

        Beechwood started the season by blanking Western Hills and Lloyd. Then, a 25-22 loss Sept.10 at Newport ended a 28-game regular-season winning streak. Beechwood fell behind 25-0 and gave up 367 total yards.

        The Tigers shut out Covington Catholic, Owensboro Catholic and Dayton before the 17-0 loss Oct.8 at Bellevue. That loss ended six consecutive years of district victories, and Beechwood gave up 297 yards.

        “We had some tough breaks,” Ramundo said. “... It opened our eyes that we're not as good as we think we are.”

        Since then, Beechwood beat Holy Cross and shut out Ludlow and Newport Central Catholic. The Tigers' 44-12 win over Raceland in last week's first round included two fourth-quarter Raceland touchdowns against Tigers reserves.

        Yeagle won't compare this year's defense with any of the previous seven state championship teams, but Ramundo said shutting out Western Hills showed him something.

        “From then on,” Ramundo said, “we knew our defense was going to be a stronghold.”


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