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Westwood defense led by experienced front six

Westwood defense led by experienced front six
 
By ZACH SMITH, HCN Sports Editor

Anthony Wood was ecstatic on Aug. 13, the first day of fall practice.

What's made him even more excited about this season is the defense on a Westwood team that will be looking to make the playoffs for the second year in a row.

"We've got four defensive linemen coming back and when you're good up front, it makes for a better football team," the Warriors' head coach said. "It could be the strength of our team thanks to our front six guys."

That returning lineup includes inside linebackers Will Clitheroe and Vicente Ochoa, third-year defensive end Ethan Brown along with Eric Hawkins, Irvin Flores and Damon Harris along the defensive line.

Westwood is younger in the secondary, but Wood said with the pressure the inside six guys can put on opposing offenses will alleviate some of the inexperience in the defensive backfield.

"Every defense has things they need to improve on, but the biggest positive it that the defense doesn't stop," Clitheroe said. "We're just tenacious off the bat on every play. We don't stop sprinting."

Clitheroe didn't play football until his junior year after battling some elbow problems. And when he did finally suit up for Westwood, it was a learning experience at first as he was thrown into a lot of unknown positions.

He played in all 11 games for the Warriors last year and finished with 50 tackles, good for second on the team.

"It's just maturity," Clitheroe said. "I've learned that big dudes aren't always as strong as they look. I'm 5-foot-8 and pretty small but I can push around the big dudes some time. I'm really excited and it's going to be an awesome year."

The new district Westwood is in adds Leander, Vandegrift and Vista Ridge to the Round Rock ISD schools and Hendrickson. All of the schools have one similarity in their commitment to run the ball.

Clitheroe thinks the Warriors are more than prepared to slow them all down.

"Our run defense is one of our strongest qualities," he said. "I've known all the guys in the box, besides Vincente, but he's one of my good friends now, since seventh grade. I know them all really well and we have a treat bond. It's like a family."

Westwood won three of its final five games and made the playoffs last season for the first time since 2013 where it lost to San Marcos in the opening round.

If the normally high-octane offensive Warriors - who averaged nearly 40 points per game last year - want to make it the postseason in back-to-back seasons, it might be the defense carrying a little more of the load.

"Our expectations every year are going to be that we're practicing on Thanksgiving Day," Wood said. "It's a long season and we've got to set expectations where hard work can create the results you want to have. In a sport where you work nine months out of the year and only play 10 scheduled, games you really cherish every moment that you're out here."

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