Starkville Academy's Stephen Robertson (48) and Hunter Peeples (17) make a stop on a Heritage running back earlier this season. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
When it comes to defense Brad Butler has always been conservative.
In his first year as the Starkville Academy defensive coordinator, his approach to defending has not changed.
"I have been a little more conservative over the years," Butler said. "You can get in something and try to get better each week, rather than trying to do something different each week. You're players can grow as a defense when you do that because they know what they're going to be in."
His approach seems to be paying off as the Volunteers are 4-3 overall and 2-1 in Class AAA, District 2, Division II play.
"Coach (Jeff Terrill) and I talked about it when it got toward the middle of the year," Butler said. "If we keep growing, we can be really, really good defensively."
The Volunteers have only allowed 93 points this season and four shutouts for the season, including last week's 40-0 win over Copiah Academy in Gallman.
One of the big reasons SA has been successful on defense is senior defensive end Stephen Robertson.
Robertson has played linebacker for most of his high school career, but with a lot of young guys getting experience this year, he had to change his role.
"It was different from what I was doing at linebacker from the roles perspective," Robertson said. "You have to learn your responsibilities. You're not going to do everything each time."
Butler has been pleased with Robertson's attitude and play at defensive end this season.
"He has done a real good job for us," Butler said. "He is basically the only returning starter on defense from last year. We have a lot of young guys that haven't got a lot of reps. We moved Stephen because we felt it was the best thing for the team."
Robertson has stepped up to be the vocal and emotional leader of the defensive squad. He took it upon himself at the start of the season.
"I knew we lost a lot from last year, but I knew we had at least half of them coming back," Robertson said. "I knew some other people were going to step up.
"I knew I was going to have to step up and get everybody to step up around me. I was going to have to lead by example."
Although Robertson has stepped up, the defense has worked as a unit and Butler said it's hard singling out one player. Players like cornerback Kirby Cox and linebacker Drew Harrell have played big roles this season.
"It has almost been a different player each week," Butler said. "We give a defensive lineman award each week and we give a secondary-linebacker award each week. It has almost been different each week."
SA has had a couple of games where they have not played its best on defense.
"(I've) been a little bit disappointed in our losses," Butler said. "We have given up too many. In our wins, we have been lights out and it's been shutouts. In our losses, it's because we gave up too many points. In the Heritage game, we gave up too many run yards. (It was the) same kind of deal with (Jackson) Prep."
The Volunteers have had some injury problems this season. The main one of defense has been defensive lineman Trip Janssen.
He has not played the last couple of games due to an injury.
Although with injuries, the game plan has not changed.
"We kind of had to plug guys in here and there because of injury," Butler said. "The healthier we get the better defensive line rotation and depth we get. Game plan has been the same, (but) we have just had to depend on a little more on some of the other guys."
The Volunteers look to get another shutout this week as they travel to Parklane on Friday.
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