Rarely will you see just one player making a tackle for the Dexter defense. There is usually one or two or three or 11 players bringing down an opponent. It’s part of the team’s philosophy – all 11 players identify, attack and bring down the opponent.
But it seems that either on his own or part of the big pile is No. 23. And, no, there are not two or three No. 23s on the Dexter roster – trust me, I’ve looked more than once.
No. 23 is Jordan Watson, the senior defensive linebacker who is all over the field on defense for these talented Dexter Dreadnaughts. He is not only one of the best defensive players on the Dexter roster but in the SEC – red, white or blue (there is no blue but you get it). He plays with passion, intensity and intelligence – an impressive combination on a football field.
The big question for Watson is how can he seem to be in on EVERY play? And he’s got a pretty good answer.
“I practice to read my keys for the halfback or guards during practice and it always helps when it comes to game time,” he explains. “A lot of it comes from instinct. I find the ball, fly down and make the play if I can’t get to it first. I love getting a little extra contact if I can get there.”
It’s all part of the Dexter defensive philosophy which has been working to a tune of a 6-1 record on the season.
“Our front nine, from the defensive line to our safeties, are elite,” Watson says. “We swarm to the ball. Coach Michos always emphasizes all 11 players to the ball. We also have the opportunity to practice against, in my opinion, the best offense in the conference which gives us a real look playing against us.”
It’s only fitting that Watson plays middle linebacker seeing that he is always in the middle of the action. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“My role is to read my keys and being an athlete out there,” he says. “In a lot of coverages we play is me watching the quarterback and then making the play. In our run defense, I have a gap but our coach always reminds me to be an athlete and try and make a play.”
Being an athlete comes naturally to Watson, who also uses his great athletic skills on the other side of the ball.
“I love being able to play both sides,” says Watson, who is used on goal-line situations and often ends up with the ball in the end zone. “Playing defense is really fun and I love the physical aspect of playing defense. Then to be able to go on offense and get a few runs where I try to make the most of it and get some touchdowns also is a lot of fun. Being able to contribute on both sides of the field feels good.”
Making school history by being the first team to reach the state playoffs last year also felt good – really good for Watson and his teammates.
“I never thought I would ever be in a playoff game, it felt unreal,” said Watson. “It felt more unreal because it was the smallest chance in the world I would play. I sat the rest of the regular season after the Tecumseh game because of my dislocated elbow so to be able to try and recover just enough to make it in that game was amazing. I played through a lot of pain and it wasn’t ready but I already knew it could be a one-time chance so I had to play.”
Turns out it wasn’t a one-time chance. Watson and the Dreads reached six wins already last week against Tecumseh to qualify for the postseason this year. Dexter has won six straight since opening with a tough loss to Chelsea.
They will take last year’s playoff experience into the postseason with them this year.
“One thing I learned and built off from last year is our defensive strategy,” says Watson. “I understand plays more and where I should be. One thing we take advantage of is watching film from last year. I watch it before every game. Just seeing myself and where I was and how I could play better this game has really helped.”
Just getting to the playoffs isn’t enough for this 2019 Dexter team. There are bigger goals to be had now and the Dreadnaughts seem to be on the right path to get there.
“I want to win out and go 8-1 and have a home playoff game,” Watson says. “To be setting records and being a part of the first team to host a playoff game will be an amazing feeling by itself. We want to try to go as far in the playoffs as possible to make a run and to make a statement.
“To accomplish this we need to take every game one by one and every practice one by one and go 1-0 in everything we do.”
After high school, Watson, the son of Carol Rathman and Ralph Watson, hopes to continue playing the game that has been such a big part of his young life.
“I definitely want to go to college and play football,” says Watson, who plans on studying entrepreneurship or management. “I want to aim as high as possible but I would settle for anywhere. Getting the opportunity to get another four years of the game I love would be amazing.”
First, there seems to be plenty more “amazings” to be had in high school.