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Panthers young defense steps up
Panther defensive coordinator Thomas Desbiens, background, watches players learn to read the offense. Desbiens said his defense is young, but shows promise as several sophomores and juniors are stepping up to the challenge. - photo by By Patty Leon / Coastal Courier
The Liberty County Panthers have tweaked their offense to fit their players’ size and speed and for Panther defensive coordinator Thomas Desbiens it was an opportunity to have his players learn to read the shotgun spread.
"We are teaching the guys how to defend against the spread because we know we will face other teams that run it," he said. "We saw it all summer long. But we started working on having our defense recognize regular pro-sets, wing-T sets because we don't want them to become accustomed to just seeing the spread, we know that's not all we are going to see all year long."
The coach said tweaking the defense just enough to cover the spread was an added advantage to his style of defense.
"Our defense has a lot of checks," he said. "And we blitz a lot. So if they come spread and give us some motion, it gives us the ability to check off and see what blitzes we can run and make the game time adjustments we need.”
Desbiens said his defense is extremely young and he has told his players no position is decided.
"We are bringing back a little bit of experience but we lost a few that were real good," he said. "But life goes on at Liberty County High School defense and we have to find the guys who'll play."
He said the young players will need to learn the entire aspect of the game, including adversity during the game.
"We're being a little hard on them," the coach said. "We broke them down during the summer and now we are trying to build them up. We are seeing progress."
Desbiens said there are players who've improved over the year and said fans should watch for names like Thomas Penny, Marcus Jefferson, Byron Johnson, Jevon Jones, Artavious Frost, Tommy Williams and JaQuel Roberts.
"Jevon Jones has really stepped up," the coach said. "When he joined us as a freshman he never played a game of football. He's a junior this year and he is a prime example of what hard work can do for a player. He took it to the next level, worked hard and takes practice and drills very seriously."
Defensively, Desbiens said it doesn't matter whether they face a familiar opponent like Richmond Hill or an unknown like Washington, Baldwin, Thomson or West Laurens.
“We have to hold our ground and keep the opponents offense at bay while letting our offense score some points. Our job is to not let them score.”
He said they plan to take new opponents week by week and have plans to exchange films with the schools prior to game day.
"I just feel that in our defensive scheme if we know our responsibility in our positions it doesn't really matter what offense we are playing we have to be able to adjust and do what we need to do on defense," he said. "We don't want to change our defense and deviate from what our defense is about.
The coach has a simple way of describing what he calls flipping the script.
"I don't want to know what they are running I want them to wonder what we are running," he said. "If we keep them guessing then we are in the advantage. You know the offense usually has the advantage because they know what play they are running and we don't. I like to tell the players we are going to switch it up and, as I call it, flip the script. I want them to wonder on every play what we are going to do."  
The coach said everyone is excited about the possibility of opening their first home game in their own stadium and said he uses the chance to pump up the players.
"It's gives them something more to play for," he said. "We keep telling them, the last few years we are 10-0 at home and we don't want to break that streak at our new stadium.  When Sept. 5th comes it's going to be a big night and we don't want to disappoint anybody, so it's definitely in the atmosphere."


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