The defense for the Dublin Coffman High School football team has displayed a physical style the last few seasons that starts with the middle linebacker position.
With 2018 graduates Luke Crabtree and Griffin Hoak now playing at Ashland University and Youngstown State, respectively, those two spots have been filled by a dependable duo of seniors Ryan Hamilton and Noah Smith.
Their move inside from outside linebacker has been a good fit for both them and the Shamrocks.
"It's a little different (at middle linebacker) because it's more physical and there's more action," said Smith, whose team is 6-0 overall and 1-0 in the OCC-Central Division. "I like the physical play and being in the action, so being inside suits me better."
Through five games, Smith had 48 tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks, one interception, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery, while Hamilton had 44 tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
"We watched a lot of film and (defensive coordinator) coach (Curtis) Crager helped us out a lot in the offseason to focus and learn the new position," said Hamilton, whose team was ranked sixth in last week's Division I state poll behind No. 1 Cincinnati Colerain. "We also learned from watching (Crabtree and Hoak) in practice last year. They showed us all we needed to know about playing and being a leader."
Coach Mark Crabtree said Hamilton and Smith both possess one of the most important qualities a player can have: dependability.
"They are very dependable, reliable, tough and smart," coach Crabtree said. "You can count on them.
"If people can say they can count on you, that's the most important thing someone can say about you. You can count on them and you know that they will be there for you."
Hamilton and Smith moved to the forefront Sept. 21 when it mattered most, as Smith had 13 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble in a 31-28 win at previously unbeaten Pickerington North and Hamilton had three tackles and a fumble recovery.
"That game was probably the best they have played together," Crager said. "Each week they study the film and come prepared to work and come prepared to play.
"They care so much about their team and being good football players. They work to be the best linebackers and teammates that they can be. They are following in that tradition of linebackers we have had here."
Hamilton rotated in at safety as a sophomore before starting at outside linebacker last season. He said he and Smith had to learn the nuances of the new position.
"The difference playing inside is that it is a lot more physical and you are reading the guards instead of the tackles," Hamilton said. "You have to run both sides of the field instead of doing your job and containing on one side. You also have to set up the whole defense."
Hamilton started playing the sport in fourth grade, one year later than most of his friends.
"A bunch of my friends started playing in the third grade, but I was still playing soccer," he said. "I decided it would be the cool thing to go play football with them, so I tried out and obviously liked it. It's good to be able to hit someone."
Hamilton and Smith will have a chance to hit someone Friday, Oct. 5, when the Shamrocks play host to Central Crossing in an OCC-Central contest. The Comets are 3-3 after losing their league opener to Hilliard Davidson 31-0 on Sept. 28.
Coffman remains unbeaten but needed overtime to defeat host Marysville 23-17 on Sept. 29 in its league opener. The contest was postponed Sept. 28 because of a lighting outage at the Monarchs' stadium.
Mike Drennen caught two touchdown passes (10 and 16 yards) from quarterback Ethan Brown and scored the winning touchdown on an 8-yard run in overtime, and Joey Mitchell added a 39-yard field goal.
"What we do in practice has been translating over onto the field on Friday nights," Hamilton said. "We have been playing well, but we know we still can play better."