Every practice session, Dennis-Yarmouth coach Paul Funk and his defensive coordinator, Tom Campbell, set aside 10 minutes for one seemingly simple drill: tackling.
“It’s more technique really,” said Campbell, who has worked alongside Funk for the past 17 seasons at D-Y. “Moving fast and getting in the right spots. We do a lot of different drills — open-field tackling, enclosed tackling, sideline tackling.
“The kids have put in the time and done everything we’ve asked.”
The process starts early at the Dennis-Yarmouth Youth Football program, where coaches emphasize the fundamentals in practices. By the time the players reach the high school program, they are in tune with expectations and proper techniques.
“We tackle well as a team,” Funk said. “The most important part of defense is tackling in the open field. We stress fundamentals like tackling in practice. It’s all about practice.”
While an explosive attack (43.3 points per game) has earned plenty of headlines in D-Y’s 12-0 run to Saturday’s Division 5 Super Bowl against West Springfield (11-1), the Dolphins’ defense has been equally impressive.
D-Y is yielding 12.3 points per game, the 13th-best scoring defense in Eastern Massachusetts.
“The defense has done a great job this season,” Funk said. “Campbell has been with me all 17 years. He’s actually teaching these kids, not just coaching.”
D-Y struggled just once to “make tackles” —
“We let them off the hook,” Campbell said. “Making tackles was a point of emphasis for the Watertown game.”
In a 41-3 victory over Watertown in the state semifinals, Dennis-Yarmouth shut down a Raiders offense that had averaged 30 points a game in its three playoff wins. On Thanksgiving, D-Y limited Nauset to 176 total yards in a 34-8 win.
Middle linebacker Sawyer McDonald and end Sammy Kenny captain a defensive unit that will face a big challenge on Saturday in West Springfield senior Vaunell Hill, a 6-foot, 195-pound tailback who has piled up 1,907 yards rushing and 25 touchdowns in 11 games this season.
“[West Springfield is] fast,” Campbell said. “They have a legitimate back [Hill] we have to stop to win. He is going to be a handful.”
The Dolphins will lean on Kenny to anchor the run defense, with Campbell referencing a play made by the 6-3, 240-pound senior in a 32-6 win over Pembroke in late September.
“On fourth and 1, Pembroke decided to go for it,” Campbell said. “As soon as the ball was snapped, Sam was in the backfield and hit the kid for a 3-yard loss. It changed the complexion of the game. You could tell by the noise it was a special hit.
“He’s a consummate teammate and the hardest-working guy we’ve ever had.”
The 6-0, 195-pound McDonald is the quarterback of the defense, according to Campbell.
“Another one of those guys that just puts in the time,” Campbell said. “You get out of it what you put in and he’s dedicated to the program. He’s 10 times better than he was last year
“These kids have put in the time and done everything we’ve asked. They’re great teammates.”
Dan Shulman can be reached at email@example.com.