Hammond football coach Justin Carey can appreciate a good defense. As a standout linebacker at Reservoir High and Bowie State, and then the defensive coordinator at Atholton High last year, the first-year head coach would rather hold his opponent to single digits than put up flashy offensive numbers.
"I pride myself on defense," said Carey, whose 3-0 Golden Bears will visit Glenelg (2-1) Sept. 27 in the Howard County Game of the Week.
A film-room-junkie, Carey has found time each week to not only prepare for that Friday night's opponent, but also catch up on video of other teams in the league, including Glenelg and its second-ranked defense (19 points allowed).
"It's up front for them. Their linemen finish people. They stay on blocks until the ref blows the whistle," said Carey, whose own team has allowed only 22 points this season.
After falling to two-time defending state champion River Hill in Week 1, 7-3 — a game which Glenelg led 3-0 with three minutes remaining — the Gladiators have outscored their last two opponents, Wilde Lake and Reservoir, 38-12.
"We thought that our defense would have to carry us for a bit because we had some guys with experience on that side of the ball, guys on the defensive line and some linebackers," Glenelg coach Butch Schaffer said.
Led by linemen Jordan Alexander, Pat LaPort, David Robbins and Craig Burris, the Gladiators have been able to win the battle at the snap of the ball.
"Butch is going to try to pound me," Carey said. "I can't let Butch sit on the ball. We've got to jump out early."
And while Carey prides himself on defense, the Golden Bears' offense is also worthy of admiration.
Senior quarterback Tyler Martin may be the league's top passer, and he has also become a dangerous runner.
When Martin does drop back to pass, he has several electric targets on the receiving end: senior tight end Brendan Urban (5 catches, 111 yards, 2 TDs) and sophomore receiver Deandre House (5 catches, 119 yards, 3 TDs).
"Offensively we'll use all of our tools. We have athletes who can get into space," Carey said. "We've been taking advantage of what the defense gives us, we've been managing the football."
House has also shown a knack for catching the ball on defense, with four interceptions in only three games.
"With his playmaking ability, he's definitely raising some eyebrows," Carey said. "His route running is like a college freshman."
The Golden Bears' offense has scored 98 points so far, second only to the 115 that Centennial has produced.
But Glenelg is capable of moving the ball up and down the field as well, with playmakers on offense like David Brookhart, Jared Jacoby and Brent Richardson, and junior quarterback Jack Hogan.
In another important Friday night game, Centennial will visit River Hill for a showdown between undefeated teams.
"This Friday night will tell a lot. It'll tell who's who," Carey said.
This week, Centennial and Mt. Hebron will each be playing without two players and one assistant coach who were ejected from last Saturday's game for their roles in an on-the-field fight.
Friday, Sept. 20 results