COLUMBUS — You could liken the Carver-Columbus defensive backfield to a high school football version of the Strategic Air Command.
Where the air command is charged with keeping the "air" over the United States guarded, the Tiger deep defender’s jobs are pretty much the same.
Their threat are the long passes launched by opposing quarterbacks.
Carver (10-2), which will play Gainesville (12-0) Friday at 7:30 p.m. at A.J. McClung Memorial Stadium, has been very successful limiting opposing passers — one opposing coach called them "impossible" to pass on.
Cornerback Ryan Campbell, who leads the Tiger secondary with eight interceptions this season, said it feels "real good" to get that kind of respect.
"Knowing the fact that our db coach (Olten Downs) works us so hard everyday during practice, it all benefits us during the game," said Campbell, a senior, "It makes me feel real good, knowing that we have a real strong secondary."
The Carver secondary — Campbell, fellow senior Bill Alexander, junior Edward Carter and sophomore Edward Pritchett — has collected nearly two dozen interceptions this season, making opposing offenses one-dimensional and turning loose the Tiger front seven to shut down the running attack.
Last week in a 21-6 victory over Woodward Academy, Carver secondary held the War Eagles to just 13 yards passing on three completions.
Campbell intercepted the Woodward quarterback three times, though one was called back due to offsetting penalties elsewhere on the play.
The senior has had the challenge of taking on the opposition’s top receiver. In the first-round game against Crisp County, Campbell had the job of following 6-3 receiver Bo Carter all over the field. He limited the Cougar receiver to just two receptions and turned an early interception into a 67-yard score for Carver.
"I like that the coaches have that confidence in me," he said. "You have to work hard every day. Know the player’s tendencies to see if he comes off the ball hard or if he takes plays off. You have to know your advantages to his strengths — if he’s quicker, you know you have to give him a little respect and play off. In his (Carter) case, he was bigger so I knew I could use my speed to my advantage and play up on him and shut him down all night."
Coach Dell McGee said the secondary has benefited from the leadership of the two seniors, Campbell and Alexander.
"Over the course of the year, Antonio Carter and Edward Carter have filled in nicely through all this adversity we’ve been going through this year," he said. "Edward Pritchett’s first game starting was against LaGrange, so that was a tough task against a good opponent with a lot at stake. He did a good job going into that week after a disciplinary action involving another starter at safety. He’s been a starter ever since."
This week brings a new challenge in Gainesville, the unbeaten champion of Region 7-AAA. The Red Elephants have an explosive spread offense which has run up big numbers in the air. Its quarterback Blake Sims has passed for more than 2,000 yards this year.
"I just watched film on them today (Monday) and I know they’re throwing the ball 20, 25, 30 times a game," Campbell said. "It seems they have a lot of athletes that can make the plays. Real good receivers that have a lot of Division I offers. It should be a big-time showdown."
The Tigers biggest challenge in the passing game this year has been Region 2-AAA rival LaGrange. Carver shut out the Grangers 24-0.
"You have to play deep. They (LaGrange) come with the verticals," Campbell said. "They have a lot of speed and a lot of athletes."
As does the Red Elephants, who have scored 473 points in 12 games for a 39.4 points per game average.