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Thursday, September 23, 2010
Vernon Hills' defense the talk of the town

By Scott Powers

Vernon Hills' 209 points this season is no surprise to anyone. With Evan Spencer and DaVaris Daniels, two of the best athletes in the country, the Cougars were expected to put up those sorts of numbers.

What has been unexpected is Vernon Hills being the only school in the state not to have allowed a point this season. The Cougars have out-scored their opponents 209-0.

Even Vernon Hills coach Tony Monken didn't anticipate that.

"Anytime you have a shutout four straight games, it surprises you," said Monken, whose brother Todd is the Jacksonville Jaguars wide receivers coach. "We expected to have a good defense, but we didn't talk a lot about it."

The question mark defensively coming into the season was replacing last year's inside linebackers, but Dustin Rusch and Brian Palmer quickly answered any doubts. Rusch leads the team with 24 tackles, and Palmer isn't far behind.

Outside linebacker Austin Miller and Jarrett Wood have been just as important. Miller leads the team in tackles for loss and sacks.

"Opponents try to run away from Woods, and Miller gets them," Monken said.

Then, there is Daniels and Spencer.

Spencer, who is committed to Ohio State, has 10 touchdowns, and they've come in a variety of ways. He has four receiving, four rushing, one punt return and one by interception. Daniels, who is reportedly down to Notre Dame and Miami, has scored nine touchdowns -- three receiving, four rushing, one punt return and one interception.

"It's funny, we laugh about it as coaches," Monken said. "As a coach, every play you have a responsibility. The quarterbacks coach is supposed to watch the quarterback; the offensive line coach is supposed to watch the line. The hard part is when you have two dynamic players is to watch what you're supposed to be watching. We get caught up in that once in a while. You want to see what they're going to come up with next."