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Watch now: Just like their offense, St. Teresa football are a powerhouse on the defensive side of the ball

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Chord Miller

St. Teresa's Chord Miller (12) returns an interception for a touchdown against Tuscola on Thursday. 

DECATUR — As St. Teresa safety and quarterback Chord Miller was running towards the end zone, ball in hand, after picking off a pass from Tuscola quarterback Peyton Armstrong, he could feel the leg cramps were starting. 

Although Miller has handed off and thrown for longer plays for the Bulldogs, his 69-yard pick-6 was the most ground he'd covered on his own during his varsity career. 

"I was supposed to cover the tight end and he didn't block. He ran out and I read it and picked it off for a touchdown. They had me stretching out on the sidelines and then my hip started to cramp. I had to play through it and help my team out," Miller said. "Defensively, it was my best game."

The Bulldogs (3-0) controlled Tuscola 41-10 on Thursday, in their biggest test so far this short spring season. The Warriors were the first team to score any points against the Bulldogs following shutouts against Clinton (56-0) and Sullivan/Okaw Valley (68-0). 

Quinlan Kremer

St. Teresa's Quinlan Kremer (80) tackles Tuscola running back Grant Hardwick on Thursday. 

Tuscola's offense was a slow grind that ate up the clock with more than 50 runs spread between running back Grant Hardwick and Armstrong. The key exception was when Armstrong connected with receiver Patrick Pierce for Tuscola's only touchdown early in the first quarter. Bulldogs linebacker Denim Cook knew immediately what the problem was on that play. 

"That was a little miscommunication. I corrected it because we got lined up a little wrong on that play," Cook said. "Tuscola came out to play and they were pretty tough. Our defense got it together towards the middle of the game and came out and executed the game plan."

Cook said he thought Miller pick-6 was just going to be a simple deflection. 

"Chord is a bad man. He can do it all — pass, run and he can make people miss. He is pretty great," Cook said. "I did not see that one coming. I was waiting for him to swat it down but he took it to the house. I was proud of him."

Michael Martini

St. Teresa's Michael Martini (44) tackles Tuscola running back Grant Hardwick (10) on Thursday. 

The Warriors were held to a field goal the rest of the way as defensive coaches Brit Miller and John Hayden adjusted to the Warriors' plans. Miller, along with MacArthur great Moe Dampeer, joined head coach Mark Ramsey's staff this season. Dampeer, who played defensive tackle at the University of Oklahoma, is focusing on the Bulldogs' defensive line. 

"I thought it was great. (Tuscola) came out here first and hit us in the mouth and that woke us up. They woke up a sleeping giant and Coach Ramsey and Brit got them going," Dampeer said. "I did my part and the rest of the coaching staff got them going. We did what we were supposed to do and came out with the win."

On the cold Thursday night, both teams were dealing with cramping, including Cook. Cook broke out a 60-yard run that seemed destined for this second touchdown of the game but was dragged down at the 2-yard line. Zeke Lewis, Cook's counterpart in the St. Teresa backfield, ran in the score on the next play and when Cook went out for a play in the fourth quarter, he did it again on a 71-yard touchdown run. 

"My legs gave out on me. It happened to me as soon as I made the first cut," Cook said. "I'm proud of my guy. I asked the coach for a sub and Zeke took it to the house, just like I wanted him to. He took the first one when I cramped and then coach put Zeke in and he took it to the house. Our relationship is pretty great. We believe in each other in what we can do and our abilities. We trust each other."

St Teresa defense

St. Teresa's Tyriq Cole (22), Amare Wallace (18) and Elijah Wills group tackle Tuscola running back Grant Hardwick on Thursday. 

Cook is a dominant on the ground (421 yards, six TDs through three games) and is a key defensive piece at linebacker. He has 15 tackles, tied for second on the team behind Justice Chapman's 18 tackles. Chapman has 3.5 tackles for loss, while tackle Will Jameson has three. Joining Cook with 15 tackles is senior Michael Martini and Lewis. 

"This season, I feel it is going pretty great. Running the ball wise I feel I could do more work. Defense, I feel like I could do more work, too. I think I'm having a good season," Cook said. "Our offense and defense are both pretty great. Our offensive is loaded. Our defense is loaded. I love hitting and I love running kids over too."

The football idiom is that "defenses win championships" and St. Teresa, the No. 2-ranked team in Class 2A by the Associated Press and Illinois Football Coaches Poll, would be in contention if a state series was a possibility this spring. 

"We are pretty good and we are pretty stocked over here. I think state would have been in our mindset the whole time," Cook said. "We get six games, that's what I am happy about. Next year, we can come out with a mindset of a state championship."


Contact Matthew Flaten at (217) 421-6968. Follow him on Twitter: @MattFlaten

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