Sheldon Irish D-Line Power: Chet Spears
It would not take you very long if you were watching the now #1 ranked Sheldon Irish to figure out why they have been so successful. It should come as no surprise to see that, despite offensive tools galore, it is their defense that is the secret weapon.
A perfect 4-0, the Irish have scored 110 points and given up 14 in the past two weeks. They have beaten quality opponents in top rated Central Catholic and Southridge and head into a league game this Friday that is going to give them another tough test. The team travels to Medford to take on the South Medford Panthers who are now 3-1.
In the middle of the defensive swarm with his helmet lined up on the Center most downs is impressive #64 Senior Chet Spears. The 6’2″ 310 pound road grader is on course to be an All-State player and is absolutely shutting down opposing offenses who try and come at the Irish middle.
Known for his toughness, Spears has great natural ability and strength. He is quick enough off the ball to meet opposing offensive linemen and plays like every down is going to be a battle; the center, a guard and often the fullback are looking to push him out of the play or pin him to the ground.
Historically there isn’t a lot of glory for the players on the defensive line, but it’s easy to tell when a defense isn’t doing it’s job. The casual observer may not realize that the defensive tackle spot is a vicious battle of force every down in what can be a long game.
“I like defense,” said Spears as we spoke about the season and the week ahead. ”Being able to use aggression and fight that battle every down is my favorite part of the game.”
That desire to use his aggression shows in Spears other sport: wrestling. He lost a close match to Mark Randall of Roseburg last year in the 6A Heavy Weight Wrestling State Championship taking Second in 2011.
“Mark was tough. We went at it 4 times last year. He won two and I won two. He just beat me at State. But this year I am looking to take it all,” he offered.
Wrestlers have a skill set that translates to football and coaches love to hear they have a heavy weight grappler in the mix. The ability to compete through pain, to stay low, and to have great leverage all make a great fit once the pads go on.
“I would say wrestling is tougher than football on average. For me it has helped me maintain a good weight as I am always right at that 285 mark. I am cutting a little right now as the season goes along so it will not be hard to hit the 285 mark again when wrestling comes.”
Wrestling is more than just a pastime or second sport, Spears won the National Championship for his age group as a sophomore and has placed very high in every event he has competed in. Spears has no off season.
“When Football ends, wrestling starts, no break. I was at wrestling events all spring and summer and returned from a tough road trip wrestling just as doubles started. This is year around with no breaks,” said the Irish Senior.
While he will certainly see a scholarship for wrestling, his heart is on the gridiron. It is there he plans to devote his time and energy. Spears has heard from schools like Southern Oregon, Portland State and Western Oregon.
“I like Portland State a lot but am really open to any opportunity at this point,” he added that he does not have a set career path yet and if he had to pick he would probably say Math was his strongest subject.
Due to the effectiveness of both the Irish offensive and defensive squads, starters like Spears are only seeing action in the first half of the conference games so far. Spears leads the team in tackles at 6.8 per game. I asked him how the chances looked for taking the championship this year.
“We made the finals last year and lost a tough one. But that experience has only made us better and want it more. So we are very optimistic,” Spears said.
Spears is a no nonsense kid and no self promoter. At the Portland State Linemen Camp this June he showed he was an elite player; a kid who does not consider himself a weight room rat, he made his mark pushing other top linemen around.
One thing is for sure, South Medford loves to run power football to set up the pass and they will throw all they have at the Sheldon “D” Line. Chet Spears and the Irish line will be there waiting.