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Chad Ryan | Journal Gazette
Concordia senior Marq Rogers’ reach and strength add to the Cadets’ wingspan, and their ability to frustrate opponents.

Cadets’ defense takes flight

Size, reach let Concordia force turnovers, keep opponents off balance

As Concordia was making a comeback in the fourth quarter of an eventual 68-63 overtime win over Andrean in last Saturday’s Class 3A semistate, the 59ers attempted a pass over the top of the Cadets’ defense that ticked off an Andrean player’s hand and went out of bounds.

The play was perfect evidence of how Concordia’s length on defense can affect an opponent.

“They turned that ball over (late) on that skip pass that was just three inches too high for their kid to catch,” Concordia coach Josh Eggold said. “It is those kinds of plays, three inches that way or this way, have really been enough for us to throw teams off just a little bit.

“Kids at this level make plays when they are comfortable, and our defense gets them just a little bit uncomfortable for what they want to do. It is something that is really a strength of ours.”

The Cadets’ collective wingspan widens their defensive reach.

“It is a great advantage to have,” junior D.J. McCall said. “I have great confidence in our guys. I know everybody can do their job. The better we play on defense, the easier it comes on offense. It bothers the (opponent’s) offense quite a bit, especially in rebounding. All five of us can rebound really well.”

The Cadets have a starting lineup of 6-foot-3 senior Ryan Gross, three 6-6 players with McCall, seniors Marq Rogers and Thomas Starks, and 6-7 senior Brian Gremaux, and they all possess the special quality of a long reach that makes passing, shooting and rebounding against them a chore for most teams.

“Size is hard to simulate, but length is hard to simulate too,” Eggold said.

Eggold said the team is blessed with the natural size, but the length has also been cultivated through time in the weight room and simply maturity.

Whether it is in their 1-3-1 zone or man-to-man, Concordia can make life tough for foes to get the ball around or over while on offense. With a tight defense and a ball-control offense, the Cadets manage to surrender only 53 points per game, which was tops in the SAC this season by six points per game.

Not only can the Cadets keep their opponents from scoring a lot, but the turnovers caused by the defense leads to their lethal transition game.

Against Andrean in the semistate, Concordia forced 19 turnovers, with many of them coming at crucial times.

“We have a lot of different guys who can score at any time, but it goes back to defense,” Starks said. “We are long across the board. We go hard against each other in practice, and that helps a lot too. When you get to games, we have been there before through practice situations.”

A standout defensive back and receiver on the Cadets’ football team who is playing football at Montana, Rogers also possesses long and strong fingers and leads the team with 2.4 steals per game, while Starks comes in at 2.0.

“Everybody is doing their jobs and everybody is talking and helping and in the right spots at the right time helps our offense,” Rogers said. “That’s our goal, to frustrate the other team and force them into turnovers. That helps us get going on offense.”