Putting the ‘D’ in DVC: Viking defense unifies ti become one of state’s elite

From+left+to+right%3A+Tui+Talia+%28No.+10%29%2C+Justus+Brown+%28No.+41%29%2C+Nathan+Dollar+%28No.+90%29%2C+Akil+Bordelon+%28No.+7%29+and+Sione+Tupouata+%28No.+4%29.+Courtesy+of+Vince+Bordelon.

From left to right: Tui Talia (No. 10), Justus Brown (No. 41), Nathan Dollar (No. 90), Akil Bordelon (No. 7) and Sione Tupouata (No. 4). Courtesy of Vince Bordelon.

Gabriel Agurcia

This season may not have gone the way DVC had hoped, but their defense sure did hold up its end of the bargain.

The Viking defense put up outstanding numbers. They finished the regular season in the top ten of every major team category. They allowed just 212.6 yards per game, highlighted by a ridiculous 44.9 rushing yards per game allowed. And with 56 sacks, they left a comfortable 12-sack gap between themselves and Golden West.

Although they didn’t rewrite the record books, head coach Mike Darr thinks it’s the best unit he’s ever coached.

“Coach Hall and I have been together since ’96. We led the state in defense in ’97, ’98, 2000, 2005 and 2011. This is the best we’ve ever had. We’ve had a couple teams better statistically. You know, one team had more interceptions, one team had less rushing yards allowed, some teams had better records. But they didn’t play against the quality of opponent we’ve played, and been as dominant from start to finish every week as this group’s been.”

The tangible evidence is great, but this defensive unit stands out because of that which goes unseen.

“We all know each other inside and outside of football. We have that bond. When I look at Tui [Talia] or Sione [Tupouata], I tell myself I can’t hold anything back for these guys,” said defensive end Siua Taufa.

“In high school you’ve got four years to bond. Here you don’t have that. I feel like we gelled quick. We’ve only been playing with each other for a season. This is our first time all ever being on the same team. We just clicked,” cornerback Na’im McGee said.

Cornerback Antoine Albert echoed Taufa and McGee’s thoughts. “We are as one. We have each other’s backs.”

In the final regular season game versus Feather River, Albert was given the task of defending Lavon Pearson, one of the top junior college wide receivers in the country. Pearson had gone over 200 yards five times, and only had two sub-100 yard games prior to the match up with DVC.

Albert held him to just two catches for 12 yards.

Albert deflected any self praise, his word choice reflecting his previous statement. “Our line and safeties were there to help out a lot, so I just did what I had to do.”

That comment is part of what lies at the heart of this unit. Statistics are kept up with on an individual basis, but they’re used as motivation to play better each and every game.

Taufa spoke of an in-game competition the defensive linemen thought of early in the season. “It started in the San Mateo game. We were talking about tackles for loss, and he [Talia] was right next to me. I told him, ‘I’ll see you in the backfield!'”

That battle for bragging rights is further evidence of the strong team chemistry. It culminates into what cornerback Robert Johnson believes is the key to their success.

“We make everybody accountable for what they do wrong. If Tui was to mess up on the line, we’ll get on him, and he’ll do it right. Or if Na’im blows a coverage, he’ll bounce back and do it perfect. I’d say that’s what makes us who we are,” said Johnson.

Effort and camaraderie go a long way, but fundamentals and knowledge of the game are still highly necessary in order to attain positive results. The mental aspect of football is stressed by DVC’s coaching staff, and the players have bought in to it.

Talia: “Coach Darr’s play-calling, blitzes, they help keep us strong as a unit.”

Johnson: “We do so much film study, and practice on what they’re [the opposing team] gonna do, sometimes we know what’s gonna happen. We just have to stop it.”

Darr pointed at the white board in the football conference room, coated in x’s, o’s and arrows in every conceivable direction.

“Turn around, look up on the board there. That’s just part of our blitz package that they go into every game with. They all have to know all of their assignments. Why we’re trying to set this pick here, and influence this blocking scheme there. Where that makes us strong, where that makes us weak.”

“A lot of JC coaches say, ‘Hey, let’s just keep it simple. Let’s not make mistakes.’ We start in January, to demand that they learn how to play the game of football.

He punctuated his remarks. “It makes it real easy as a coordinator to not only have the type of athletes that we have, but to be able to pick and choose what disguise, what front, what blitz, what coverage. You can really get into playing that fun chess game as a coach when you’ve got guys that do that, that put in that effort in the film room, and off the field.”

Johnson, one of the scarce sophomore leaders on a freshman-heavy team, captured the essence of the discussion.

“It starts with our coaches. Coach Vince [Bordelon], he’ll do anything for the d-line. Coach Darr, he’ll do anything for the DBs. We see that, so we’re gonna go on the field and play for ’em. We see the love they put into the game, so we’re gonna show the love back and execute what they want us to do.”

Intelligence. Passion. Love.

Sounds like a winning formula.