Many coaches wait their entire career to have a defensive back capable of taking away one side of the field for an opponent’s passing game.
Capital coach Jon Carpenter has two players he thinks can do that job.
Karrington Hill and Kerion Martin enter their senior seasons with reputations as solid shutdown DBs, affording the Cougars the luxury of sending an extra defender or two to another part of the field to disrupt an offense’s plans.
“Defense is a math problem,’’ Carpenter said. “It’s all about trying to get one more than they can block. And to be able to do that, you have to be able to have somebody that can shut down one side of the field, or can take away one receiver. Both of those guys are good enough that we feel comfortable trying to put them in tough situations to help us someplace else.’’
Hill and Martin feature good size for a defensive back at any level. Hill, a cornerback, stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 170 pounds. Martin, a free safety who sometimes mans a corner position, comes in at 6-2 and 192. Each has already carved out a name for himself in a clutch situation.
In last year’s Class AAA playoff quarterfinal against Hedgesville, Hill almost completely shut down Malakai Brown, the Eagles’ All-State receiver who took the 2017 Randy Moss Award as the top receiver in West Virginia. With Hill draped all over him, Brown was held without a reception until 3:34 remained in the third quarter, by which time Capital had built a 35-7 lead on its way to a 48-14 win. Brown finished the game with two catches for 31 yards, one of them a negative-yardage play.
Hill said he’s always been confident in his abilities, but that performance did him a world of good.
“Yeah, it boosted my confidence a lot,’’ he said, “because everyone was talking about he’s got the Randy Moss Award, and it was my first year ever playing football on the defensive side. It opened up a whole lot for me, and let me know I’m a lot better than I think I am.’’
Martin, meanwhile, had one huge shining moment as a sophomore during Capital’s 34-16 win at Hurricane. Right before halftime, with the Redskins attempting a field goal to shave their deficit to 14-13, Capital’s Anthony Pittman blocked the kick and Martin scooped up the loose ball and weaved his way downfield 88 yards for a touchdown to make it 20-10 at the break and perhaps save the Cougars from a 3-3 start to the season.
At that time, of course, Martin was recognized more as being “little brother’’ to Capital star quarterback Kerry Martin Jr. Now, with Kerry Martin in Morgantown playing defensive back at WVU, Kerion Martin knows it’s his time to shine as a defensive back and receiver.
“I’ve got to step up more and live up to my own name,’’ he said, “and not be known as Kerry’s little brother. Just live up to being Kerion, and without him. Obviously, it’ll be a little different this year because we’ve got to fill in his spots and some other key spots that we’re missing this year.’’
One of those spots, however, definitely won’t be at defensive back. Besides Hill and Martin, the Cougars have another experienced hand in the secondary in junior Josh Martinez.
Hill was asked what qualities make him successful playing cornerback.
“Unlike other corners, I’m kind of long,’’ he said. “Most of them be around the 5-9, 5-10 height range. I’m lucky enough to have long arms, long legs and I’ve got a little bit of speed.’’
Kerion Martin saw some of those same abilities in himself.
“I also bring length to the table,’’ he said. “I think my ability to be smart in the film room helps me a lot. Especially when you’ve seen something on film and live as well, it helps you a whole lot.’’
It’s all good and well to sport a pair of top-notch defensive backs on your team, but competing in the ground-bound Mountain State Athletic Conference as Capital does, you wonder how much good it does when you’re much more likely to square off against a team that runs it 40-plus times a game than throws it 20-plus times.
Carpenter said having a shutdown corner or versatile safety pays more dividends than simply shadowing a certain receiver.
“It lets you put one more in on the run, which is good,’’ Carpenter said. “I think everybody knows you’ve got to stop the run to win football games. To have guys who can play out there without help gives you plus-one in the run game. Both of those guys open up the door for you like that, no doubt.’’
Martin, from his safety position, feels the pressure of filling in gaps and reacting to the run, but said you can’t forget your other responsibilities on defense.
“What you have to do is stay focused,’’ he said, “and not get caught up in, ‘Oh, they’ve been running it for 20 plays, let’s creep up a little.’ You can’t do that. You’ve got to always be aware of what you’ve seen on film and you’ve just got to be smart about the situation.’’
Likewise, Hill said you don’t want to lend too much of a hand on stopping the run — or be forced to pay a high price, giving up a long completion.
“You can’t just think they’re running,’’ he said, “and think, ‘I’m going to go a little soft on the cover on the routes.’ You’ve got to act like the ball’s coming to you every single time. You can’t be predicting. You’ve got to be more reacting than predicting.’’
Speaking of reactions, Capital’s dynamic duo of defensive backs was asked point-blank: Who’s the better cover man? Hill, again, had it covered.
“It’s got to be me,’’ he said, grinning. “When it comes to tackling, I’ve got to give it to him because he’s big. But cover-wise? I take that.’’