Bruisin' Bruins: Stingy defense keys best Northwest start in years

Doug Smith/

Northwest Whitfield High School's Ray Morrison sprints away from the North Murray defense for a 99-yard touchdown in a September game.

TUNNEL HILL — Northwest Whitfield High School is off to their best football start in years, no matter how you measure it.

The obvious sign of a good start would be wins. The Bruins have won all four of their games, good for the program's first 4-0 start since 2013.

But, as Northwest begins Region 7-4A play Friday, head coach Josh Robinson is just as proud of the team's progress in its 4-0 start.

"It's definitely where you want to be, but it's about learning lessons," Robinson said after Tuesday's practice. "You'd obviously be more disappointed at 0-4 going into region play, but it's about learning lessons going forward."

The Bruins got a chance to learn those lessons in the season's first four games, then headed into two straight off weeks. Robinson said the Bruins have to find a way to keep their pre-bye momentum going strong into region play. The Bruins travel to face Central of Carrollton (3-1) Friday night.

"We got two weeks off, but that's no excuse," Robinson said. "We have to be a mature team and go on a business trip."

Robinson expects that maturity — on and off the field — out of a younger team. The Bruins replaced 14 starters from a season ago, including most of the defense. Yet that defense has been a great strength for the Bruins in 2020's strong start.

Sophomore quarterback Owen Brooker has already thrown 10 touchdown passes this season, and he leads a passing attack with weapons like wide receivers Ray Morrison and Matt Redmond — who have each caught four of those touchdowns.

It's the Bruin defense that gives Brooker and the offense room to maneuver. They have allowed just 10.8 points per game this season, and that number doesn't even account for couple of defensive scores and touchdowns against backups by Bruin opponents.

In a September game, Northwest held North Murray to just 10 points. North Murray went on to score 62 and 40 in their two games since.

"We replaced a lot of people, and we feel like we're playing really well on that side," Robinson said. "You're obviously aiming for shutouts, but I don't know that it can get much better than it's been."

One of the defensive players that didn't have to be replaced was Jordan McCamish, a linebacker. He leads the Bruins with 61 tackles through four games played.

"We had a bunch of new young players that are stepping up to help us play good defense," McCamish said. "We're just trying to put the offense back on the field so they can do their thing."

McCamish attributes the Northwest start to a strong work ethic on both sides of the ball.

"I think it starts in the weight room," McCamish said. "We're just hard workers."

Even after the 4-0 start, McCamish thinks the Bruins' best ball is still ahead of them.

"It's a big flip," said McCamish said of region competition. "Every year, I think right around this time we start hitting our peak. We're just ready to get started."

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