Defensive backfield has Father Ryan headed in right direction

Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 9:26pm

There has been some big-time thievery going on at Father Ryan the past two weeks.

The Irish secondary has intercepted a Nashville-best seven passes thus far, which likely is the reason for the Irish’s 2-0 start to the football season.

The quartet of cornerbacks Rafael Hopkins and Ryan Bossung, along with safeties Jamonte Graham and Bill Stejskal, have combined for a big-time August start. The group started out with a bang when it made four interceptions in the 21-3 Clinic Bowl Kickoff win over Overton on Aug. 20. Then the unit got three more in the 30-7 win over Cane Ridge last Friday.

Two of the seven have been returned for touchdowns.

“All four guys came into the season with a lot of experience,” seventh-year coach Bruce Lussier said. “So I knew going in that our secondary would be one of our strong points this season.”

It’s a seasoned, but fairly young group. Bossung is the only senior. Hopkins, Graham and Stejskal are all juniors.

Graham, younger brother of former Whites Creek star Jamie Graham, possesses the most impressive resume. He has three interceptions total and has returned one for a touchdown in each game. His 22-yard return in the fourth quarter locked up the victory over Cane Ridge.

He also is a passing and running threat at quarterback as well the punt returner.

“We moved Jamonte from linebacker to safety, and he’s adapted well,” Lussier said. “[Stejskal] is kind of the newcomer to the group, and he’s fit in well.”

Bossung was named Clinic Bowl defensive MVP after his two interceptions against Overton. Stejskal also had a pick in that one.

“Some of it has to do with game situations,” Lussier said. “The teams we’ve played have been behind and forced to pass, and we’ve been opportunistic in that regard. They are very good at covering the deep ball.”

Hopkins, a tailback, also is the team’s leading rusher. He ran for 82 yards and two touchdowns and was named offensive MVP of the Clinic Bowl. He added 158 yards rushing against Cane Ridge.

“We have a good linebacker corps. We’re not very big up front, but we’ve improved a lot and we’ve relied a lot on speed and quickness,” Lussier said. “All of our guys really run to the ball very well.”

As September arrives, Ryan faces by far its toughest matchup.

Powerful Baylor, a DII state finalist last year, arrives at Ryan’s Giacosa Stadium on Friday night with an identical 2-0 record, having scored 93 points in its first two games.

Is this Lussier’s best team?

“Time will tell,” he said. “We have 17 returning starters, so we have the experience factor.”

Especially in the secondary.

• Friday marks the opening night for DII play. Besides the key Ryan-Baylor game, Brentwood Academy heads over to play big rival MBA, McCallie is at Ensworth, and Pope JPII travels to take on BGA in Franklin.

In this week’s DII AP poll, Ensworth (2-0), Baylor (2-0) and BA (1-1) are ranked No. 1-2-3. BGA (2-0) is 7th,  MBA (1-1) is 10th and, somewhat surprisingly, Ryan is unranked.

• Former Hillsboro High coach Ron Aydelott was named Tennessee Titans Coach of the Week after guiding his Riverdale High Warriors (2-0) to a 23-9 road win over St. Xavier (Ky.) last week.

SCHEDULE
(Week 2)

Friday’s games
Chattanooga Baylor at Father Ryan
Brentwood Academy at MBA
Centennial at Franklin
Clarksville Academy at NCS
DCA at Riverside Christian
East Lit at David Lipscomb
Hillsboro at Ravenwood
Hillwood at Antioch
Hunters Lane at Cane Ridge
Independence at Brentwood High
Macon County at Goodpasture
Maplewood at Whites Creek
McCallie at Ensworth
Mt. Juliet Christian at Ezell-Harding
Overton at Glencliff
Pearl-Cohn at Stratford
Pope JPII at BGA

Saturday’s game
CPA at Lexington (Ky.) Christian