CRYSTAL LAKE – The lack of outside attention could serve as a bone of contention.
But ask Colin Leverenz if he and the rest of the Prairie Ridge defense is bothered by the way the spotlight seems permanently affixed onto the Wolves' triple-option offense, and the senior linebacker quickly brushes off any suggestion that competitive envy exists.
"We don't really look for the publicity," Leverenz said Tuesday. "As long as we know we're playing for each other and we have every man doing their job, that's enough for us."
The defense has provided more than enough of late for the Wolves, who host Marmion at 1 p.m. Saturday in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs. The unit has surrendered an average of 15.2 points a game during Prairie Ridge's current four-game winning streak and produced a dramatic fourth-quarter stand in a 21-14 win over Lakes on Friday.
On a defense void of much big-name star power, the formula of playing for one another and refusing to break, even under immense pressure, has defined a unit that has had as much to do with Prairie Ridge's recent success as the Wolves' high-scoring offense.
But that isn't necessarily a new concept.
"Over the years, our defense has often got overlooked," coach Chris Schremp said. "We do tend in some games to score a lot of points, and people like those big offensive numbers. But they forget about the other end of it."
That's certainly not the case within the ranks of Prairie Ridge's program. Especially after Friday's playoff opener when the defense kept Lakes out of the end zone after surrendering a 70-yard pass play that left the Mustangs only 9 yards shy of a potential game-tying touchdown.
That's when the defense turned to a one-eleventh fraction that relies on every man doing his job to ensure the success of the entire unit. It started with defensive back Matt Perhats, who knocked away a pass in the end zone before Leverenz got his hands on a pass at the line of scrimmage, preserving a win that extended Prairie Ridge's season.
"We really proved ourselves that last drive," Leverenz said. "We showed what type of defense we can actually play and the level we can play at."
Schremp believes the mental toughness his defense displayed after giving up the big play can have some carryover in the level of confidence the Wolves play with.
In times of adversity, players can look back to that final series, understanding they can shake off anything in order to finish the job.
It's a mentality Prairie Ridge will work with Saturday against Marmion, which has scored 82 points in its past two games. And as always, the defense that Perhats describes as a team that sticks together will again look to one another for support, not expecting anything from the outside in return.
"Every man has a man on offense, and if every man does his job, we don't have to look for the plays," Leverenz said. "The plays will come."
And in turn, so will the accolades that no one on the defense seems to care about.