Features | Friday Night Drive

Sterling secondary off to another strong start

The first few weeks of the season, there’s been some pressure on the Sterling secondary.

Against Lakes, St. Francis and Galesburg, the Golden Warrior defense has faced almost as many passes (87) as rush attempts (95), and has allowed a little over half of those pass attempts to be completed (48) for 6.6 yards per pass.

Those three teams have thrown for 577 yards, but with only a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 5-2. Much of that production came from St. Francis in Week 2, a team with a Division I recruit at quarterback and a corps of athletic receivers on the perimeter.

In two wins, Sterling’s defensive backfield has been a key piece of the puzzle in getting stops and allowing the offense to build big leads. And the fact that they look forward to the challenge every game, every play, has a lot to do with the success.

“I think playing DB is fun, but it’s also a difficult position,” junior Isaiah Mendoza said. “It’s one-on-one, you against the receiver, and you have to be ready for it every play.”

AJ Kested has both interceptions for the Golden Warriors, and he cites that as the best part about playing DB. But the senior also likes the fact that he can see the entire play unfold in front of him while playing on the back end, and he believes that’s what makes the Sterling defense so cohesive.

“Being able to get those picks, that’s my favorite part about it,” Kested said with a grin. “You can really oversee everything, too. So if you’re communicating, you can talk to your linemen and linebackers, let them know what’s going on so they can make adjustments.”

Communication is the key element, according to both Kested and Mendoza. The ability to tell each other what they see, to trust their fellow DBs to do their jobs and have each other’s back, is crucial to the success of any unit – especially one where the individual players find themselves on an island playing one-on-one against some of the speediest, most athletic players on the opposing teams’ rosters.

“Communication, really is the biggest thing,” Kested said. “If everyone’s communicating with each other, we all have our good first back read steps, and just communication is the best thing we can do for each other.”

And it’s one of the strengths of the defensive backfield, according to Mendoza.

“We communicate a lot, and we communicate well,” he said. “We’ve just got to be confident in doing our thing.”

This year’s secondary is the latest in a long line of solid groups anchoring the back end of the Sterling defense, which is a strength of the team every season. Especially since entering the Western Big 6 for the 2019 season, the Warrior DBs have had a lot more action than in their previous conferences.

It adds to the pride factor that the current players in that unit can live up to the standard and tradition set by their predecessors.

“It’s a big thing for us. It’s a good tradition, and we want to keep it going,” Mendoza said.

“Definitely, it’s fun having to carry that legacy on of playing defensive back at Sterling,” Kested added. “I know we have great linebackers, too, and I feel like we’re all doing a good job stepping into the shoes of the other guys who have played before us.”