The 2018 Ca­toosa-Walker Coun­try Foot­ball Dream Team De­fense

The Catoosa County News - - FRONT PAGE - By Scott Herpst [email protected]

The past cou­ple of years have seen the be­gin­nings of a turn­around in War­rior Coun­try.

Af­ter four years and a com­bined seven wins, LFO im­proved to 5-5 in 2017 and made the jump to 7-4 this past fall, de­spite los­ing more than 20 se­niors from the pre­vi­ous sea­son. And while LFO’S ground-and-pound run­ning game was able to chew up yards and put up points in 2018, the de­fense de­serves plenty of credit as well.

A unit that al­lowed over 41 points game just two years ago has nearly cut that num­ber in half as the Red-and-white gave up just 24.1 points a con­test this past sea­son and held op­po­si­tion to 15 points or less six times.

LFO not only had its most sin­gle-sea­son wins since 2012, it played for a re­gion cham­pi­onship and hosted a first-round state play­off game for the first time since 2004.

To­day, two of the main rea­sons for the im­proved de­fen­sive num­bers - ju­niors James Bed­ding­ton and Todd Thorn­burg - are be­ing rec­og­nized as the Co-de­fen­sive Play­ers of the Year for Ca­toosa County.

Bed­ding­ton, a 6-foot, 235pound de­fen­sive line­man, fin­ished the 2018 sea­son with 49 tack­les (40 solo). He had 20 tack­les for loss, seven sacks, 11 quar­ter­back pres­sures, three forced fum­bles and scored one de­fen­sive TD. Mean­while, Thorn­burg helped shore up the sec­ond level as the 5-11, 185-pounder had 120 to­tal tack­les (100 solo) with five tack­les for loss, two sacks, four fum­ble re­cov­er­ies, seven quar­ter­back pres­sures and one in­ter­cep­tion from his line­backer spot.

“This year was a big one for me,” Bed­ding­ton ex­plained. “I had an MCL in­jury three games into my fresh­man year. I came back my sopho­more year, but there was some pres­sure. I didn’t start the first game (last year), but I started ev­ery game af­ter that and I re­ally just felt a lot of pres­sure from all of the up­per­class­men with me be­ing an un­der­class­men that was com­ing in and start­ing over some of the older guys.

“There was pres­sure again this year, but it was a dif­fer­ent kind of pres­sure with all the younger guys look­ing up to me now. I just de­cided that I had to set a good ex­am­ple for the un­der­class­men in the weight room, on the field and off the field.”

LFO head coach Bo Camp­bell said Bed­ding­ton re­ally stepped up for the team in 2018.

“He had a pretty de­cent year last year, but I re­ally think he took more of a lead­er­ship-by-ex­am­ple role this year,” Camp­bell said. “He was a guy we re­ally counted on up front. A lot of times, you’re only as good as your de­fen­sive line and he helped lead that de­fen­sive line to do the right thing.

“He re­ally worked hard in the off­sea­son on his tech­nique, strength and speed. That re­ally showed when he was out there play­ing foot­ball. He’s an­other guy, a lot like Todd, that goes 100 miles an hour on ev­ery play. We have a lot of guys like that, guys who will give you all of their heart and ev­ery­thing they’ve got.”

Bed­ding­ton said the game against Mur­ray County was a per­sonal high­light as he caused fum­ble, re­cov­ered a fum­ble and scored a touch­down, in ad­di­tion to mak­ing sev­eral tack­les.

“Next year I want to get stronger,” he added. “I wasn’t as strong this year as I needed to be and I need to work even harder next year. Not that I didn’t work hard (this year), but I just need to make my­self even bet­ter. We want to de­velop a broth­er­hood like this school as never seen be­fore, es­pe­cially on de­fense, where ev­ery­one is mak­ing All-re­gion teams and things like that.”

Thorn­burg gave credit to 2018 LFO grad­u­ate Drew Woodard for get­ting him ready to be­come a true leader at the line­backer spot.

“Last year, I played with Drew and I re­ally looked up to him,” Thorn­burg said. “He showed me the ropes when I was still a fresh­man. When he left, I knew I had to fill some big shoes. I tried to help Coach Camp­bell coach up some other lineback­ers to help me out in the box, but I also knew I had to step up on the field, so I just read my keys like I was sup­posed to, tried to make open-field tack­les and close things up in the gaps.”

Thorn­burg said two games stood out from the rest. He said beat­ing county and re­gion ri­val Ring­gold for the sec­ond straight year was a high­light, but he also pointed to the Sono­rav­ille game as one of, if not his most mem­o­rable night of the sea­son.

“That (Sono­rav­ille) game touched every­body, be­cause that’s the game that got us into the (state) play­offs,” he ex­plained.

“Todd is a hard worker,” Camp­bell said. “He’s a guy that’s go­ing to work hard in prac­tice ev­ery day. He lis­tens and he’s very coach­able. He did a great job in a lot of dif­fer­ent ar­eas that helped lead our de­fense and we’re real proud of him. He doesn’t have the DI col­lege size for a line­backer, but the thing about him is that he plays with a lot of heart. You re­ally don’t have to get on to him about ever slack­ing or tak­ing a play off.”

“I just tried to push my­self to help make our other play­ers bet­ter,” Thorn­burg added. “We’ve got three or four spots to fill next year and we have some guys that can fill those spots, so it’s look­ing good for next year.”

Camp­bell said he was thrilled that both his stand­outs would be back for one more sea­son on The Hill.

“They both had great years,” the coach added. “We’re proud of ev­ery­one on our de­fense. They all did a great job, along with the of­fense and spe­cial teams too. Every­body helped out this year and it’s al­ways nice for those guys to get recog­ni­tion for work­ing hard and be­ing the best they can be.”

Ca­toosa County Co-de­fen­sive Play­ers of the Year James Bed­ding­ton (LFO) and Todd Thon­r­burg (LFO)

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