Last season was a long one for the Salado defense, a unit that gave up nearly 44 points per game last season.
But the Eagle defense is hoping to get off to a fast start this season, and Salado had a promising start on that side of the ball Friday, when the starting defense shut out Whitney in a scrimmage.
“It felt good,” senior linebacker Kyle King said. “We just went in there and closed them down — definitely builds confidence from last year.”
“Major turnaround from last year,” junior linebacker Tyler Armstrong added.
For head coach Brent Graham, who harped on the Eagles’ need to step up defensively at the start of fall camp, it was not just encouraging to see in preseason but also, he hopes, a sign of how good things can be down the line.
“I was proud of our kids stepping up,” Graham said. “We challenged them defensively and we’re still at the beginning stages of it.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do and a long way to go, but I think every day, inch by inch, we’ll get there.”
Salado now prepares to face former district mate Marlin in a scrimmage Thursday at Salado.
After falling to the Bulldogs last season, 41-31, the Eagles know Marlin will be a good test just eight days from the start of the regular season.
“They’ve got a lot of kids returning from last year’s team, and they were salty last year,” Graham said. “They’re going to be that again, so it’s a great test.”
The defense, however, wasn’t the only side of the ball that impressed in the scrimmage against Whitney.
Junior Preston Payne was one of many receivers who Graham said stepped up when their number was called, confirming the depth the Eagles have at the position.
“We have a lot of good backups for our receivers,” Payne said. “If the No. 1 guy isn’t there the next guy can go in for him.”
What also was impressive was the play of freshman quarterback Jacob Wilk, who performed admirably in place of starter Jacob Little, who was held out with an injury as a precaution.
“He has good confidence,” King said of Wilk, “It doesn’t slow us down a bit.”
The defense, however, slowed down Whitney quite a bit in the scrimmage Friday.
Now, they will look to do it again against Marlin before, hopefully, doing it in games that count in the standings this season, starting with Troy on Aug. 29.