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Football: Homework pays off for Argyle defense

Profile image for By Steve Gamel / For the Denton Record-Chronicle
By Steve Gamel / For the Denton Record-Chronicle

JUSTIN — Connor Wilson knew after just a few hours of film study this past week that Graham quarterback Ben Davis would struggle mightily against Argyle’s high-pressure defense.

It was all in how Davis — who threw for 3,707 yards, 41 touchdowns and seven interceptions through the first 14 games — stared down his receivers. It was evident in how he handled adjustments, and Wilson added he could tell — on videotape — Davis was at times unsure of his next move.

Wilson couldn’t have been more right.

Argyle hurried, sacked and tormented Davis to the tune of five interceptions and an uncharacteristic 128 passing yards in a 38-14 win in a Class 3A Division II state semifinal at Northwest ISD Stadium.

“We knew he would struggle under pressure with our defensive line and how fast we pursue the ball,” said Wilson, who was responsible for one of Davis’ four first-half interceptions. “I knew to key off his eyes. We do a great job at man press because of our athleticism and he [Davis] didn’t scan the field.”

Wilson and the Eagles (15-0) will play Fairfield (15-0) at 4 p.m. Friday at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium for the chance to win the program’s first state title.

“Anytime you win 15 games, it’s a credit to the kids,” Argyle coach Todd Rodgers said. “My biggest job is scheduling the bus to leave on time. Our kids are focused, but while we are happy with the achievements of this year’s team, there is still a lot at stake, and we have to make sure we get ready for the next game.”

That shouldn’t be a problem after Saturday’s momentum-building win.

Graham (14-1) came in averaging 34.1 first-half points per game but was held scoreless until the Steers got on the board with a short run by Davis with 1:43 left in the third quarter.

By that point, the Steers were facing a 35-point hole and Davis’ touchdown was their first trip inside the Argyle 21-yard line.

Davis went 207 straight passes without an interception before throwing a pick at the end of the first half last week against Shallowater.

He had driven his team deep into Argyle territory on Graham’s opening possession of the game but was intercepted by Dalton Ledford with 9:04 left in the opening quarter. Argyle converted that turnover into a 7-0 lead on the ensuing drive.

With 10:18 left in the first half, Hunter Treadwell stepped in front of another Davis pass and returned it 35 yards for a 14-0 Argyle lead. Treadwell keyed in on the play so fast that he didn’t break stride as he snared the ball and ran the other way for the score.

“I saw our line get the pressure, and when I saw the running back swing out, I started watching his [Davis] eyes,” Treadwell said. “Once he threw the ball, I knew I was getting it.”

Three of Davis’ picks came in the second quarter. Colton Hinnrichs followed Treadwell’s pick-6 with an interception on Graham’s next drive. Argyle again capitalized for a 21-0 lead.

Treadwell had two interceptions on the night. His second came on Graham’s first possession of the third quarter with Argyle leading 28-0.

“[Graham] hadn’t seen a bump-and-run defense like that all year,” Rodgers said. “Their offense is all about rhythm and timing in a passing game with a lot of window routes. They have a lot of good wide receivers, but if you can disrupt the rhythm and give your defensive line a fraction of a second longer to put pressure on them, it’s a good thing.”