Rejoice Christian’s defensive success is measured by two whistles.
During practice, Brent Marley and his coaching staff will use a pair of whistles. The first whistle signals when a play is over. The next whistle is blown a couple of seconds later and signals something even more important.
“We stress to everyone to get to the ball, so we want all 11 there by the second whistle,” Marley said. “You see it in the game. A lot of times on film, there are five or six blue jerseys rallying to the football to make a tackle.”
That devotion to chasing down opponents has helped a stifling Eagles defense into the second round of the Class A playoffs.
Going into Friday’s clash with Wewoka (8-3), No. 2-ranked Rejoice has allowed 7.5 points, essentially one touchdown, per outing.
“(Defensive coordinator Brandon Johnson) has done a great job getting us ready,” Marley said. “He works hard getting us lined up right.”
And the Eagles have even better in the first half, before most of their contests have been well in-hand. Rejoice has only given up two touchdowns all season in the first two quarters.
Incredibly, the Eagles have outscored their first 11 opponents in the first half by a combined score of 363-12.
“There’s so much power in momentum,” said Marley, referring to his team’s first half success. “When you get momentum and establish dominance, which you hope to do, it’s hard for people to come back from.”
Rejoice, which claimed a 42-19 win over Hominy in last week’s first round of the playoffs, will look to continue that momentum when Wewoka, a squad that walloped Central Sallisaw, 56-22, on the road in the first round, invades Rejoice Stadium for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
One of the reasons for the Eagles defensive success has been the play of their linebackers, which Marley has touted as one of the best groups he’s ever coached. Senior middle linebacker Zac Hair led the team with 56 tackles and 12 tackles for loss in the regular season. Seniors Nate Anderson and Dyson Auschwitz and junior Gunner Evans are among others at the linebacker spot that have helped Rejoice hold opponents to just 144.6 yards per game.
The Eagles pass defense has picked off 19 passes, including four against Hominy, and allowed just four touchdowns in the air during the season.
Freshman free safety Chance Wilson had a team-high five interceptions during the regular season.
“The kids do a good job of studying the game plan and it shows,” Marley said. “They know they can play fast and free. They love contact and fly around to the ball.”