XENIA — The Xenia football team’s defense has been one of the Miami Valley League’s best units in 2022 and it all begins up front.
Xenia’s six-player rotation of Ayden Brewer, Louis Freeman, Torian Hill, Landen Partee, Jamell Smith and Kale Webb have been at the forefront of a resurgent group playing at a high level halfway through the season.
As impressive as the team’s offense has been averaging 44 points per game, the line leads a defensive unit which has only allowed 44 total points, three times not giving up a touchdown and twice having produced shutouts of the opposition.
Against a Piqua team averaging 53 points against other opponents, the Xenia line were front and center in producing numerous three and outs and limited trips across midfield on the way to a 28-0 win.
Partee and Smith are seniors, with Brewer currently being a junior. Freeman, Hill and Webb are already part of the foundation as freshman.
“They are unique in the combination of physicality and athleticism,” head coach Maurice Harden said. “It makes them different than other groups that other people see. And what makes it better is the youth on top of that. Smith is great, but the fact we got Freeman, Hill and Webb playing big time minutes in big time game and playing really well makes us a better team.”
What makes the group work well, according to Freeman, is the leadership he and his fellow freshman receive from the two seniors. He said Partee and Smith show everyone else how to prepare on the field, but also the work ethic needed and mental preparation one should develop to want to keep getting better.
“They really look up to the two of us and we’ve wanted to try and set a good example for the young and coach them up as much as we can,” Partee said.
“The coaches also told us even if we’re smaller, we can’t take the first punch and we’ve got to give it,” Freeman said. “We need to be the most physical team every game and I think we’ve done pretty good.”
The work didn’t get underway in the first padded practice of the fall, but rather came back during the offseason, according to Smith.
“This group has stayed after it all summer, and we would stay like an hour and half after everybody’s left,” Smith said. “It’s very exciting to see how all of it has come together.”
What everyone in the unit agreed on that helps makes their roles easier is Smith’s play alongside them. Smith is the leader of the defense and will undoubtedly be in a group under consideration for MVL player of the year.
“No. 9 is a difference maker,” Harden said referring to Smith. “He’s a guy you have to account for on every single play. There’s not a time where an offense and can prep and not say, ‘Where’s No. 9?’
“Them trying to find a solution to him as the problem is what helps allow those other guys have opportunities to go hunt and make plays.”
Partee said the “blood and sweat” the group has after each game just shows the hard work put in to be a well performing unit. Most importantly, Freeman noted everyone just wants to play well for each other.
That is a proper sign of begin focused on a goal together and it has shown up each week.
A midseason look at Xenia and other Greene County school matchups:
Tippecanoe at Xenia
One of the biggest games across the state will take place at Doug Adams Stadium for the second time in three weeks when the Red Devils, ranked No. 2 in this week’s Division III state AP poll, takes on Xenia, ranked No. 5 in D-II. The two sides are the final two undefeated teams remaining in the MVL at 5-0 and have similar resumes, but no common opponents.
Tipp is averaging victories by a 38-7 score, but have played four of the five lowest scoring teams in the league to date, while Xenia has only taken on one team from that group. Tipp does boast an impressive come from behind win against Bellbrook during week one.
While in their respective region’s computer rankings the two teams are No. 1 (Xenia) and No. 2 (Tipp) and the game could have big implications for the potential to earn multiple home field advantage opportunities in the postseason, Harden said his players aren’t focusing on anything but taking care of the moment being put in front of them.
“We’ve continued to keep telling our kids to be where your feet are,” Harden said. “We want to keep focusing on the moment, stay present in what we’re doing and continue to keep executing on a consistent basis every day.
Offensive MVP: Trei’Shaun Sanders (Sr.), RB — 69att, 834yds, 13TD; 4rec, 45yds
Defensive MVP: Jamell Smith (Sr.), DL — 49tkls (21 solo), 3 sacks, 14tfl, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 defensive touchdown
Beavercreek at Wayne
Beavercreek is seeing steady improvement week-to-week, but is struggling to keep up with power GWOC teams in the process. Its defense has one of the league’s breakout plays in Crawford, but the unit as a whole is allowing the most points in league play. The Beavers are at the cutoff of the postseason sitting 16th in Region 2 with a 2-3 record.
Offensive MVP: Spencer Johnson (Sr.), QB — 54-87, 464yds, 4TD, 1INT; 53att, 161yds, 3TD
Defensive MVP: CJ Crawford (JR), LB — 51tkls (26 solo), 2.5tfl, 1 forced fumble
Waynesville at Bellbrook
The defense has shined while the offense has done just enough to carry them to four straight wins after an opening close loss against Tippecanoe. A third consecutive SWBL crown is in sight, but after this week at home against the Spartans, tests against Monroe and Valley View close out the season. Bellbrook is No. 8 in this week’s D-III state AP poll, and 5th in the Region 12 computer rankings to have a chance for two home games in the postseason.
Offensive MVP: Elijah Brooks (Sr.), RB — 97att, 654yds, 6TD; 1rec, 5yds
Defensive MVP: Luke Kosins (Sr.), DB — 36tkls (24 solo), 1 forced fumble, 2 pass deflections
Cedarville at Greenon
The Indians have hit some growing pains with a group almost void of seniors, but have been in nearly every game it has played despite a 2-3 record. Cedarville is the darkhorse contender for the OHC South having a passing game that not many others in the league can duplicate. The Indians are also certainly not out of the race for a postseason spot, currently ranking 14th in Region 28.
Offensive MVP: Jackson Howdyshell (Jr.), WR — 22rec, 327yds, 3TD; 1KO TD; 1/2 FG, 13/15 XP
Defensive MVP: Arman Walker (Jr.), DB — 23tkls (16 solo), 2 interceptions
Piqua at Fairborn
A new level of vigor is present for the Skyhawks that has made the team much more competitive this season. Fairborn still has only win to show for it, several more opportunities will be present in the second half in the chance for a playoff spot. The Skyhawks are on the outside looking in for the postseason at the moment sitting in 18th in Region 8.
Offensive MVP: JT Smith (Jr.), QB — 72-132, 690yds, 3TD, 4INT; 63att, 279yds, 5TD
Defensive MVP: Dominique Johnson (Sr.), DB — 21tkls (13 solo), 2 interceptions, 3 pass deflections
Southeastern at Greeneview
The Rams are a two-point conversion from an undefeated record and have impressive wins against Waynesville and Mechanicsburg, along with being the only team to score against 5-0 Northeastern. Greeneview’s defense is allowing the fewest points in the OHC South. The Rams are in a tie for 6th in the Region 20 computer rankings and receiving votes in the D-V state AP poll. The toughest remaining games begin this week, a rivalry game at home against passing foe Cedarville, and a potential league title showdown at Catholic Central.
Offensive MVP: Cole DeHaven (Sr.), QB — 23-45, 318yds, 2TD, 3INT; 69att, 504yds, 9TD
Defensive MVP: Cooper Payton (So.), LB — 59tkls (35 solo), 1 forced fumble, 1 interception
Carroll at Badin (Sat.)
Carroll has twice taken a win from the jaws of defeat and are 3-2 overall as GCL play gets underway. The Patriots are 16th in the Region 12 computer rankings and face a challenging road of league opponents to keep postseason chances afloat. The path starts on the road at the No. 1 state in the D-III state AP poll.
Offensive MVP: Cody Booher (Sr.), QB — 68-135, 587yds, 6TD, 2INT; 56att, 169yds, 2TD
Defensive MVP: Luke Herrman, (Sr.), DL — 27tkls (14 solo), 1 sack, 4tfl, 1 pass deflection
Week 6 Rankings
Contact Steven Wright at 937-502-4498 and follow on Twitter @Steven_Wright_.