If Ooltewah’s David Strickland has his way, he’ll grow a few more inches before the end of his high school senior year. That possibility is definitely in his family’s genes, as he had an uncle who grew to 6-foot-3 during his last year of high school and another uncle who shot up to 6-5.
But even at the defensive tackle’s current size, he’s pretty special as a football player.
The 5-10, 230-pound Strickland finished the regular season with 12 sacks and 18 tackles for lost yardage – ranking among the area leaders in both categories. His sack total in 2013 is 4.5 sacks more than his two previous seasons combined.
Strickland came into the season specifically wanting to be one of the area’s sack leaders, and in one fewer game than some of the other area leaders, he ranks second. He played only the first half of the 47-7 blowout win over Stone Memorial in the first round of the playoffs last week and didn’t have a sack.
He credits the addition of defensive coordinator Doug Greene to his success.
“He’s given me more freedom to do work,” Strickland said. “His work is amazing.”
Both Ooltewah head coach Mac Bryan and Greene feel good with Strickland in the middle of the defense.
“We know that when he plays, there are no runs inside the tackles, and the quarterback has to know where he’s at on every snap,” Greene said. “I think he’s a calming presence for our defense: He missed one game and our opponents ran up the middle on us.”
That opponent, Cleveland, defeated the Owls 26-21 on Oct. 25, costing them the outright District 5-AAA title.
“David’s such a force inside. He’s big, strong and makes disruptive plays that halt drives,” Bryan said. “Coming in, I knew he’d be good because he had such a good work ethic and because of how big and strong he is. I don’t think I knew how dominant he’d be, but he’s been real good for us. He’s so fast inside that teams have to scheme plays and game-plan against that, which hurts their inside run game.”
As the Owls prepare for a Class 5A state second-round game against nearby rival East Hamilton on Friday, Strickland is looking for more to do.
“I feel a little confident going into the game because we beat them last time, but we know it’s going to be harder for us because they’ll come in holding a grudge,” Strickland said. “I’m just wanting us to get this win so we can be closer to getting this championship.”
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.