Week six of high school football is here and the Morristown West Trojans’ defense is looking to make a stop against its city rival, Morristown East, with junior Luke Yandell leading the way.
Yandell and the Trojans’ defense, especially rushing defense, have been locked in through the first three games of the season. West is 2-1, with defensive wins against Jefferson County and Cherokee, and a lone loss against Farragut.
Alvin Sanders and his West squad preach on how it takes all 11 guys on each side of the ball to win a game, which is a fact; however, Yandell is one of those 11 guys on the defensive side of the ball that has stood out.
“When times go bad, we look to each other to lift each other up,” Yandell said. “We all trust each other, especially on this defense. I think our chemistry is amazing with each other. No one faults each other and we don’t ever point fingers. I think it has helped us become a better defensive unit.”
He leads West with 17 tackles in his first three games. He has also had two and ½ tackles for loss, three pass deflections and a fumble recovery to his statistics.
Yandell, at the safety position, has hit the gaps just right to help West contain their opponents to only 126 rushing yards per game in a region that utilizes the ground game a lot.
“I want to come out with a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “I want to have fun but I want to stay focused at the same time. I come in with a calm attitude.
“The last thing I want to do is be complacent with my stats. I want to continue to show what I can do and I can’t do it without the guys beside me and the coaches around me.”
His performance at his position becomes even impressive when realizing he has only played safety for two full seasons.
Yandell began his middle school football career as a lineman, then found his way to receiver until finally becoming one of the top safeties in Region 1-6A at West.
“I was a little chubby in middle school,” Yandell said with a laugh. “I always played on the defensive line. Once I got into eighth grade, I was strictly a wide receiver. I wanted to be a receiver in high school but (West) tried me out at safety and I ended up falling in love with it.”
The Trojans began the season with a 14-7 victory against Jefferson County, nearly shutting the Patriots out before they scored with a half a second left.
West achieved its shutout the next game with a 35-0 victory against Cherokee and held the Chiefs to 121 yards total offense.
“We came in prepared to start our revenge tour,” Yandell said. “All of us wanted to be Jefferson County. We knew we had to work as a team to beat them.
“After beating Cherokee, we had a lot of confidence. Especially getting a shutout. I think it has helped us on the defensive side of the ball to keep our confidence.”
The only loss for the Trojans thus far has been on the road against Farragut who emphasized its passing game to defeat West 45-14.
Through those three games, though, Yandell has watched himself become a leader for the defensive unit, but couldn’t have done it without the guys around him.
“Communication is key in the secondary,” Yandell said. “You are getting calls from all different defensive positions and you have to be able to read what the offense has going on. I have learned a lot from the guys before me and the coaches around me. I feel like a leader out there and I try to be a leader on and off the field. That all comes from the guys and coaches around me.”
His leadership and his performance will need to remain consistent for a battle against Morristown East, as West’s defense takes on senior Cole Henson and East’s explosive offense.
“Everything about the (East and West) game excites me,” Yandell said. “I love the atmosphere this game brings. I grew up with some of those guys and being able to compete with them on the field is awesome.”