JIM PETERS: Souders, Rensselaer defense sustaining acclaim

2013-11-08T21:45:00Z 2013-11-09T01:56:04Z JIM PETERS: Souders, Rensselaer defense sustaining acclaimJim Peters Times Columnist nwitimes.com
November 08, 2013 9:45 pm  • 

EAST CHICAGO | After Dalton Souders blocked not one, but two punts on the same play in Rensselaer's game against Lafayette Central Catholic on Oct. 11, the feat gained national acclaim that's yet to fade.

As of this week, it still maintained top play honors on ESPN's Sports Nation, holding off its latest challenger, a game-ending Hail Mary touchdown pass by Nebraska.

Souders' performance in Friday's Class 2A Sectional 33 championship victory over Bowman Academy may not have had the cache of the double blocked punt, but five sacks by one player in three quarters isn't something you see in a game too often, either.

"They both feel good," said Souders, a 160-pound junior defensive end who uses his speed to beat much bigger linemen. "I was just coming off the edge hard. It's been cool, getting a lot of attention. Everybody's been talking about it. (Making big plays) pumps our defense up and it carries on to every possession."

Rensselaer came into the game with 31 sacks and added seven to the total Friday. Souders, who wears a cast on his left arm for a cracked wrist suffered in the Central Catholic game, now has 14 quarterback takedowns.

"That's what he does," Bombers coach Chris Meeks said. "He's a phenomenal defensive player. You look at him, he doesn't seem like much, but he's got all the intangibles. He's got a high motor. He gets after it. He's relentless."

The double block punt has been a microcosm of the season for the big-play defense, a unit that has scored 10 touchdowns. Cornerback Avery Walker leads the way with three pick sixes. Against Bowman, Rensselaer snagged its 21st interception to go with two fumble recoveries, bringing that total to 18.

"Our defense has been like that all year," Meeks said. "They're uptempo. They get after it. They're high pressure. They cause turnovers."

Rensselaer's defense did most of its damage in the first half, coming up with five sacks and all three turnovers, to cover for the offense, which struggled early. Dalton Murphy and Eli Isom hopped on Bowman fumbles while Adam Langley picked off a DeShawn Franklin screen. Murphy also recorded his 15th tackle for loss of the season.

"We had to keep (Bowman quarterback DeShawn Franklin) bottled up in the pocket," Souders said. "We knew if we flushed him out, he would run."

The Eagles rushed for 113 yards, most of those coming late. The deceptive total eclipsed the per game average of 67 for the Bombers defense.

"Leave no doubt," Souders said of the defense's mantra. "We're all athletic. We're all quick. We just go to the next play and try to do the same thing."

While much of Bomber Nation has continued to vote religiously for the double blocked punt to keep it as the top play, Souders hasn't gotten caught up in the hoopla. He leaves the voting to everybody else at school. He already has a girlfriend, so he's not looking to capitalize on his new-found popularity, either. He's just trying to help Rensselaer win.

"Any time you can win a football sectional," Meeks said, "it's great."

We'd all vote for that.

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