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Murphy: This is the year of the sack

POSTED: August 29, 2010 9:21 p.m.

Watching a quarterback sack evolve is really a fascinating process, even though the guy on the receiving end of the hit would beg to differ with that assessment.

For the defender to get to the QB before the ball is released is more than just a foot race; it involves the aggressor having the strength to power past the offensive lineman — the quarterback’s body guards — and the smarts to know the next move of players on offense before they even take a step.

Once in the backfield, it becomes a foot race between a hungry defensive lineman or linebacker and a QB left out on an island, who may or may not know he is about to be dealt a vicious hit. Even the definition of the word sack, according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, “the plundering of a captured town,” shows that this is a rather manly accomplishment and a physical conquest.

Something that, in the context of the football field, should be celebrated.

This year the bragging rights for the best high school football sackmaster in the area will be a fun battle to watch. Every year, one statistical category seems to jump out above the rest. Last year, it was neat to watch the passing battle Flowery Branch’s Connor Shaw (now a QB at the University of South Carolina) and Gainesville’s Blake Sims, now at Alabama.

However, this season it seems to be a battle between defenders to see who can put the most quarterbacks on the ground while still holding the football. The candidates right out of the gates are pretty well established with East Hall senior Sterling Bailey and Lumpkin County junior B.J. Dorsey the frontrunners after Week 1. Gainesville’s A.J. Johnson, a senior linebacker, will certainly be right up there near the top, if not the leader, once the season is said and done.

After Week 1, both Bailey and Dorsey are right on track. Bailey, a Georgia verbal commit, had three sacks and 11 tackles in a loss against West Hall last Friday. Dorsey had two sacks, several hard hits on the quarterback and forced a fumble in a 35-0 shutout against Riverside Military in Dahlonega.

Once a player with the talent of a Bailey, Dorsey or Johnson is determined, the next step is watching to see how the ensuing opponents try to scheme and make that player less of a factor in impeding their offensive gameplan and keeping the quarterback healthy.

With regard to Bailey, it’s hard to completely use all your resources to corner him off with another Division-I defensive end, Chaz Cheeks, on the other end of East Hall’s line. Double-teamming Bailey with the two best linemen would result in Cheeks having a field day in the backfield.

And after seeing Dorsey play in person in Week 1, it’s clear that he plays with a very talented defense at Lumpkin County. It becomes a matter of picking your poison as to which defender is going to be left with the shortest distance between point A and B to get a clear shot on the quarterback. In addition to being a well-spoken young man, Dorsey already is ranked as one of the nation’s elite defensive ends in the Class of 2012.

The quarterback sack wasn’t officially recognized as an official NFL stat until 1982. Since then, menacing defensive players like Bruce Smith, Lawrence Taylor and Reggie White made the act of hitting the quarterback one of the most coveted defensive stats.

Though usually not as violent of a collision as the professional game, the sack on the high school playing field can energize a crowd and change the tide of a game just the same.

Bill Murphy is a sports reporter for The Times. His columns appear Mondays during football season. He can be reached at bmurphy@gainesvilletimes.com and followed on twitter at twitter.com/gtimesbmurphy.



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