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Tough Carson Linebackers Just Don't Give Ground : Colts' Defense a Winning Combination; Only One Opponent Has Scored in 6 Games

November 06, 1987|ADAM MARTIN

They like to call themselves The Relentless Force .

It may not be the most glitzy of nicknames, but it certainly fits.

The unit guided by Jim D'Amore, Carson High football defensive coordinator, has yielded just 14 points in six games, powering the Colts to a 6-0 record and first place in the City Pacific League.

After posting five shutouts, including last Friday's 41-0 drubbing of what was supposed to be a competitive Gardena team, Carson, the Times No. 1-ranked squad and USA Today's third-rated team nationally, appears far and away the class of the City.

D'Amore agrees. So do all those who have tried to lasso the Colts.

Just how dominant has the Carson defense been? Consider:

In six games Carson has sacked quarterbacks 39 times for minus 303 yards, a 78-sack pace for 12 games, which is how many the Colts would play if they reached the City championship game. The Colts' season record for sacks is 61.

Colt defenders have held opponents to per-game averages of minus 23 yards rushing, 71 yards passing and 49 total yards.

The Carson defense has accounted for six touchdowns in six games, three by interceptions and three by recovering fumbles. Carson's season record is eight scores by the defense.

Carson's defense is on pace to break 26 team defensive records.

And there's more. But strangely, neither D'Amore nor Colt head Coach Gene Vollnogle believes this year's club is the best either has seen.

"We've had much better talent in the past," D'Amore said. "The difference now is we're doing a lot more things defensively."

High school football is beginning to look more and more like the college and pro games with standard sets and conservative running games giving way to stunting and pass-oriented attacks.

Carson, a subscriber to the newer style, puts points up quick enough to force opponents into an altered game plan. Then, when the Colts know opponents have to pass to catch up, the devastating Carson pass rush reduces even semi-close games to laughers.

Appropriately, the Colts' black and blue uniform matches the bruises they give opponents. Yet Carson doesn't have Purple People Eaters, a Steel Curtain or a Fearsome Foursome, all great 4-3 defenses of NFL lore. The Colts do play a 4-3 defense--four lineman and three linebackers--but much of the relentless bunch lines up behind the line.

"Our linebackers are exceptional as a unit," Vollnogle said recently. "We've had better linebackers in the past, but this unit is superb."

Leading a linebacking unit that has accounted for 159 tackles is senior Arnold Ale, a 6-4, 220-pound outside linebacker who has 14 sacks and 41 unassisted tackles in six games.

Granada Hills offensive coordinator Tom Harp, whose offense scored the only points against Carson this season, said Ale single-handedly destroyed the Highlanders in a 42-14 loss.

Lynwood Coach Joe Hembrick shrugged: "That number 87 (Ale) is something special. He can play anywhere he wants in college football." Carson dumped Lynwood, 28-0.

Ale lines up differently on every play, as do outside linebacker Arthur Warren and middle linebacker Rick Tiedemann. "What we do is stick in the same set all the time but never stay in the same position so we can't be blocked," said D'Amore.

Ale thinks these variations confuse opponents. "We line up one way, the offense looks at us and they change the play," he said. "Then we switch into another position and they try to change again, and before you know it, they have to call timeout."

Tiedemann, a 6-1, 192-pound senior, is responsible for changing his team's look just before the ball is snapped. D'Amore said this responsibility is new to the defense, now that it has a mentally capable middle backer. "We've had intelligent players before," D'Amore said, "but we never gave anyone Tiedemann's responsibilities because we didn't think they could handle it."

Tiedemann thinks his formation changes have less to do with his brain and more to do with his body. "I have a lot of things to memorize, and to tell you the truth I don't memorize them all the time," he said. "I just play my game. Every detailed thing I'm told to do I don't always do. It's kind of just instinct."

The 5-10, 184-pound Warren agrees. "On defense we do whatever comes naturally. Mostly we like to lay licks on people so they fear us and don't think we're just gonna lie over."

Nobody does, and though every coach whose team has lost to Carson said the Colts didn't intimidate his players, Carson's linebackers say size and a winning reputation scare most foes.

And D'Amore thinks opponents are giving up when faced with tough deficits. The Colts have not been behind once in six games, and "if you get ahead," D'Amore said, "teams seem to be doing the 'el foldo' job."

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