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Shark defense rules ‘tank’ - Sheepshead Bay blanks veteran Kangaroos

Fred Snyder was already worried about Saturday’s showdown against upstart Boys & Girls before he did research on his opponent. Then, after watching the tape of the Kangaroos’ loss to Curtis and seeing that 33 of the Kangaroos’ 45-player roster were seniors, the Sheepshead Bay coach felt even worse.

“I had never seen that before,” he said. “I thought they might destroy us.”

As it turned out, Boys’ could’ve fielded up to 50 seniors and it wouldn’t have mattered, not against the Sharks’ tenacious defense, which registered its second shutout of the year in a 6-0 win at the Shark Tank. The Brooklyn school notched its fourth consecutive win and second in a row – it knocked off Canarsie, 14-6, last week – against a playoff-bound opponent.

Devontai Carlie scored the game’s only touchdown, running up the middle from 6 yards out, on Sheepshead’s second drive. The Sharks’ run-heavy attack was kept in check from that point on. That was OK; firepower wasn’t needed. The defense set up the first score when Naquan Lawrence recovered a Boys fumble and later Davoin Barzola sacked quarterback Evan Rugel and David Dyce recovered.

Rugel was harassed all afternoon by defensive linemen Andre Civil and Dyce. He was sacked five times and hit on several other occasions. The exploits of Civil, the mammoth Rutgers-bound defensive end, was expected. After all, he does have a team-high six sacks.

But Dyce had played sparingly this fall, missing the last two weeks with a sprained ankle. The undersized junior only started, Snyder said, “because he did such a good job in practice. He’s been waiting for his chance all year long.”

Boys did have chances to tie or take the lead.

Three times the Kangaroos (5-3) drove into Sheepshead (6-2) territory, but the closest they would get was the Sheepshead 12-yard line on their final drive of the first half, a drive that stalled when Dyce and Civil sniffed out a halfback option to Kadeem Cousar. Civil snuffed out another misdirection to Khalif Osson on Boys’ first possession of the second half on 4th and 11 from the Sharks’ 28.

“We looked at each other and said great teams make plays,” said Dyce, a junior who had eight tackles and two sacks. “We refused to be blocked.”

Snyder said it was a particularly long week, full of late-night study sessions and early mornings with defensive coordinator John Crawford and special assistant Ed Grezinsky, the architect of the multi-front system and the girls’ basketball coach at Murry Bergtraum, the 10-time defending city champions.

“The coaching staff did a great job to shut them down,” Snyder said. “That’s an explosive team.”

Sheepshead, meanwhile, struggled to produce much offensively. Carlie had a few nice runs, but he nor Ayo Isijola, the Sharks’ homerun threat who broke a 71-yard touchdown run against Canarsie the previous game, could get to the perimeter. Snyder, in his 14th year, had an idea that would be a problem after watching how little success undefeated Curtis had against Boys on the ground.

“They have a big line,” Snyder said.

So despite facing short yardage on a pair of fourth downs in the final quarter, Snyder opted to kick. Against the Chiefs, his players convinced him to go for it. Not this time, not on 4th-and-1 from midfield late in the fourth quarter.

“I had confidence in the defense,” he said. “I felt if we pinned them back, we could finish them off.”

Lawrence, indeed, got off a good punt, setting up the Kangaroos at their own 20 with 4:00 to go, more than enough time to stage the game-winning drive. The only problem was the Sharks pushed them back, a sack apiece by Dyce and Civil.

“We love it,” Dyce said of putting the game in his unit’s secure hands. “Defense wins championships.”

Suddenly, after these two impressive wins, Sheepshead is back near the top of the city, back where it belongs. A chic pick to contend for a city championship, the Sharks’ season didn’t get off to such a fine start, dropping close ones to Clinton and Curtis.

A few unnamed teammates, Civil said, were overconfident, arriving late to practice at times, not with the right equipment on other occasions. Slowly, the traditional power has put it together, however, and bonded, led by the suffocating defense.

Snyder said the win last week was a turning point, it “got us over the edge and that edge would sustain the team.”

“I never doubted us,” Civil said, adding: “we got to keep this winning streak going.”

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