HARLINGEN — The old saying that defense wins championships is one that still holds true to this day.
An effective pass rush is the key to a sound defense. This season, Harlingen South’s defense has caused fits against opposing offenses with its pass rush led by seniors Sky Tatum and Brandon Bennett.
Both Tatum and Bennett stand a solid 6-foot-3 and have provided a stout pass rush through the first two weeks of the season.
“I think they’re tough to block and definitely have some talent up there,” said Hawks coach Brian Ricci of Tatum and Bennett.
“They create turnovers, which is great, but the problem right now is our open-field tackling, but we’re working on it. Up front we are getting pressure and our secondary is great in coverage, but it’s still early in the year and we will get better at it.”
Tatum swaps from defensive end to nose tackle while Bennett comes off the edge. The duo is now in its senior year and looking forward to one last season together.
“Sky and I have played since our junior high days,” said Bennett. “When we were in middle school, we always talked about playing together at the varsity level. Now that we’re here and have gotten off to a great start, it’s a great feeling.”
Through the first two games, Tatum and Bennett have a combined nine sacks – Tatum has five and Bennett with four. Against PSJA, Bennett’s pass rush was on fully display by getting good jumps off the ball and he was relentless throughout the night. His biggest play of the evening came in the third quarter when he shook off a block and sacked PSJA High QB Trey Guajardo to force the Bears to punt from deep in their own territory.
“Over the offseason I worked a lot on my hand work,” Bennett said. “I went to a lot of camps and worked on my speed off the edge. A lot of the time the ends use their hand work and that’s what kills tackles.”
Like Bennett, Tatum comes off the edge and can push the pocket up the middle as a nose tackle. Tatum’s big play last week came in the second quarter against PSJA. With Bennett rushing Guajardo, Tatum jarred the ball lose and the Hawks recovered, turning the momentum in their favor.
But it’s not just Bennett and Tatum who have stepped up for the Hawks’ Big D. Over the first two weeks, South’s defense has forced nine turnovers. The Hawks’ secondary has fed off the pass rush with two interceptions in the first two games.
In Week One Jose Lara collected two picks and one of them ended up a pick six. Last week it was sophomore Enrique Alvarado, who picked off a pair off passes.
“We have worked hard all summer and now we can go out and show how hard we have been working,” Tatum said. “We don’t want all that hard work to be for nothing. I get more tackles when I play end, so that has been fun for me. Right now I feel confident in my pass rush and my foot work has been key in my development. As for playing with Brandon, it’s been fun playing together and building a relationship over the years.”
The Hawks will have their home opener tonight against Edinburg North. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.