through for LA
Wednesday, October 9, 2013 1:00 AM
Leake Academy coach Brian Pickens is accustomed to winning games with a high-powered offense at his disposal.
This season, the long-time coach of the Rebels is learning to win with defense.
The Rebels pitched their first shutout of the season, beating rival Winston Academy 21-0 in a hard-fought district contest for both teams.
The Rebels improve to 5-2 on the season and have won three straight games, giving up just 10 points in those contests. Winston falls to 1-6 on the season.
The Rebels are now 4-0 in district play after a rugged three-game district stretch.
"It's been mentally challenging the last four weeks," Pickens said. "And it was just as tough physically as it was mentally and they you throw the injury bug in there on top of that, I don't think you could ask much more out of our kids."
After allowing 24 points to Simpson in week four, the Rebels' defense has responded. On Friday night, Leake allowed just 196 yards and seven first downs while keeping the Patriots out of the end zone twice.
"The last three weeks, the defense has really stepped up and played as good as any group we have had in the past," Pickens said. "And we have had to have that this season. Right now, our offense is still in a learning curve. We've had so many new people who have had to step up and play, we are still figuring out what we can and can't do. We just aren't getting the explosive plays so the defense isn't getting a lot of help."
On offense, the Rebels showed flashes of putting things together. Leake had 272 yards of total offense with 198 on the ground.
The first score came with 10:38 left in the first when Alex Shepard found Thomas Nazary open in the middle of the field on a 61-yard touchdown pass. John Forest Sisson booted the PAT to give Leake a 7-0 lead.
The Rebels tacked on another score early in the second quarter with 11:45 left in the half, putting together a 10-play, 60-yard drive, capped off by a 5-yard run from Taylor Nazary. Sisson's PAT attempt failed and Leake led 13-0.
"I think our kids have showed a lot of maturity," Pickens said. "We have had to move pieces around and our kids have stayed focused against some really good opponents and that says a lot about their maturity. You worry about a falloff after some of these tough games but the kids have played very focused."
The Rebels added their last score of the game with 10 seconds left in the third quarter when Sisson scored on a 3-yard run. Shepard then hit Thomas Nazary on the two-point conversion as Leake led 21-0.
The Rebels host Hartfield - formerly University Christian - for homecoming on Friday night.
"Hartfield is a quality AA opponent," Pickens said. "They have won two in a row. They are the first true spread team we have played this season. They have shown that they can throw the football and can be dangerous in doing that.
"We've got our work cut out for us. We have to continue to do what we have been doing and mentally prepare ourselves for this week."