When it comes to semipro football, the Arbutus Big Red has a tradition that few teams can match. The team's first appearance on a gridiron came in the Roaring Twenties.
"We were established in 1926," Arbutus coach Ulander Giles said.
History is something those associated with the Big Red are proud of, but so is the present. And that is looking good, too, with the help of a defense that has allowed only 14 points in victories over three Virginia teams — the Titans, Silverbacks and Steelers.
The Big Red hope to go 4-0 when it plays the Rivermen in Colonial Beach, Va. on Aug. 10.
Giles, a fifth-year coach, thinks the 2013 Big Red could be better than the 2009 team that won a Mason Dixon Football League championship. "We absolutely have a shot at a championship," Giles said. "This team has much more talent and more depth at every position. I tell them at every practice."
The dominating 3-4 defense is led by linemen Kelvin Santiful, Charles Wilson and Michael Greengold and linebacker Brendon Twilley, an Arbutus resident and Mount St. Joseph graduate.
"This might be the best defense we've had since 1998," Giles said. "That defense was very good. It was ranked No. 3 in the country. This year's defense has to keep doing what it's doing and pitch some shutouts. Stats-wise, it could surpass that '98 defense. "
Giles was particularly impressed by the effort in a 14-0 victory July 27 over the Silverbacks, of Charlottesville.
"I went back and watched the game film," Giles said. "There were 50-something snaps the other team had. I am talking run plays and pass plays. There were only two plays the quarterback didn't get hit. He was even getting hit on handoffs. Our defense is that good."
Giles also likes what the 16 new players have brought to the team.
"This team is a high energy team because of all the rookies," Giles said. "The majority of team is from 19 to 25 (years old). We had some people retire, and this is the most rookies we have had in a year. Arbutus has such a tradition that when guys start here, they don't leave. They retire."
Three first-year players — outside linebacker Alex Teague, defensive back/wide receiver Marcus Wilson and center Gavin McMorris — are starting.
McMorris has made a difference on offense.
"He has played arena football," Giles said of McMorris, who has played for the York Capitals, a team the coach owns. "So he has really good football skills and knowledge, which helps out making offensive changes and calls during the game."
The Big Red defeated the Virginia Steelers, of Herndon, 38-6, at Arbutus Middle School on Saturday, Aug. 3. when quarterback Stewart Long threw a touchdown pass to Wilson and backup quarterback Tyler Westphal, an Arbutus resident, teamed up with Robert Sparks for another score. Twilley recovered a fumble for a touchdown and returned an interception for a score.
"Every week, we work very well together," Twilley said. "Everybody trusts each other."