Wednesday, November 17, 1999

Elder defense better after move

Brunner has become top pass rusher

Enquirer contributor

        Saturday could be a big night for Elder's Pat Brunner. Not only will Elder's top defender enjoy a chance at leading his team to victory and a berth in the Division I state football semifinals, he'll also get his best chance to show the benefits of a recent position change.

        Brunner was moved three weeks ago from middle linebacker to the weak side defensive end position. An injury to end Dave Kumpf prompted the move for good, although Elder coaches had been contemplating the idea anyway to take advantage of Brunner's skills.

        “We think he's an outstanding defensive end, a dominant type of guy,” Elder coach Doug Ramsey said. “He's so fast and quick off the ball. He's very quick to the passer and we want him to get to the quarterback.”

        That's where Saturday's game comes in. Elder (10-1) meets Huber Heights Wayne (11-1) at 7 p.m. at Dayton's Welcome Stadium in the Division I, Region 4 championship More than any opponent since Brunner made his position switch, Wayne likes to put the ball in the air, often employing four wideouts in a wide-open attack.

        “I watched game film of them (Monday) with coach Ramsey,” Brunner said. “We watched their front seven and I think the door is open to having a big game when we run our 50 defense (which centers around a strong pass rush). Their quarterback doesn't like to move around that much.”

        Brunner also goes into the game with encouragement from an unlikely source — St. Xavier stars Nick Larsen and Eric Arling. Brunner ran into his two old neighborhood buddies and youth football teammates after St. X was upset by Wayne last Saturday night. He also talked with St. X free safety Nick Lyle, who, like Brunner, has committed to play college football next year for Vanderbilt University.

        The St. X players are confident Elder can beat Wayne if it can avoid the kind of mistakes that killed St. X last Saturday, Brunner said.

        Brunner is Elder's leading tackler this year. In last week's dramatic 49-42 win over Centerville, “the Centerville coaches were saying they didn't want to run at him,” Ramsey said. “They wanted to run the other way.”

        The night was frustrating for Brunner, as he had to play assignment football in guarding against the dive from Centerville's triple-option offense. Still, he had moments.

        “He was all over the field against Centerville,” Ramsey said. “On one play, they ran the option away from him, and he ran all the way across the field and ran the play down for a two-yard loss. That's a great play.”

        Particularly for a 6-foot-4, 235-pound defender new to his position. Brunner showed that the move might be good for his productivity in his first week at defensive end — the regular season finale with Oak Hills — when he had a career-best 23 tackles.

        “I don't mind playing there,” Brunner said. “Wherever the coaches think they need me, that's where I'm going to go.”


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