Combs’ Corner: Tavares and Brooksville Central get defensive

For most die-hard football fans, nothing beats watching a Tecmo Bowl-like shootout between two high-flying offenses.

Lots of offense is exciting. It puts fans in the seats. It creates a better atmosphere because bands get to play the school’s fight song more often and cheerleaders get to perform their high-flying aeronautics more often. Players love being on a team that puts up lots of points. After all, who wouldn’t love experiencing that one glorious moment when the crowd erupts as you cross the goal line?

However, legendary Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant once said something that still rings true in today’s world of seemingly unstoppable spread offenses:

“Offenses sell tickets, but defenses win championships.”

That’s hard to argue. Since 2002, defensive mastermind Bill Belichick has led the New England Patriots to five Super Bowl victories. His protégé, Nick Saban, has been equally dominant on the collegiate level, leading Alabama to five national championships since 2009.

Granted, neither the Patriots nor Crimson Tide lack production on the offensive side of the ball, but both teams pride themselves on playing hard-nosed defense.

That brings me to the main point of this article. I attended the Tavares vs. Brooksville Central game last Friday night. It wasn’t exactly a battle between two offensive juggernauts. In fact, in the first half, both offenses were … well … offensive. Here’s a possession-by-possession breakdown.

Brooksville Central: Three and out.

Tavares: Three and out.

Brooksville Central: Interception.

Tavares: Fumble.

Brooksville Central: Touchdown.

Tavares: Failed fourth down attempt.

Brooksville Central: Failed fourth down attempt.

Tavares: Three and out.

Brooksville Central: Three and out.

Tavares: Failed fourth down attempt.

Brooksville Central: Three and out.

Tavares: Failed fourth down attempt.

Yawner, right? Not really. See, some of us old-schoolers can still appreciate an old-fashioned defensive struggle. I enjoy seeing a linebacker crashing through the line of scrimmage to tackle a running back for a loss. I enjoy seeing defensive ends applying pressure from the edges and sacking a quarterback. I enjoy seeing a defensive back run downfield with speedy receivers and tipping the ball away at the last second.

Therefore, the defensive struggle between Tavares and Brooksville Central was anything but a yawner.

And guess what? The final minute of play was exhilarating. Trailing 12-8, Tavares scored the go-ahead touchdown with 33.1 seconds to play. On the ensuing kickoff, Brooksville fumbled the ball, and a Tavares player scooped it up and ran it back for the game-clinching touchdown.

The crowd was electrifying.

In the grand scheme of things, a victory is a victory whether the final score is 50-43 or 10-7. To me, style of play isn’t necessarily what’s exciting. Winning is what’s exciting.

Thanks to my alma mater, Tavares, for driving that point home last Friday night.