Daniel Godkin doesn’t have a squat, compact frame like most high school linebackers, and he’s not fully comfortable at the position.
But the 6-foot-4-inch, 225-pound senior is having a huge impact for Palo Verde after moving from defensive end to middle linebacker this season.
“I’m really loving Daniel Godkin,” senior safety Tyrone Blake said. “He’s really helping out our linebacker corps.”
The Panthers’ defense has posted consecutive shutouts and allowed only one touchdown this season.
But top-ranked Palo Verde (3-0, 1-0 Northwest) faces its toughest opponent yet when it hosts No. 3 Cimarron-Memorial (2-0, 2-0) at 7 p.m. Thursday.
“This is going to be a great test for us,” Godkin said. “A very big test. We’re going to have to get after it. We have to see how tough we really are. And this will prove it.”
Cimarron has rolled in its first two games, outscoring Cheyenne and Arbor View by a combined 79-14. The Spartans have rushed for 620 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“They’re a hard-nosed football team — no nonsense,” Godkin said. “They’re going to come right at you. As linebackers, we have to come up and fill those holes, and our defensive line has to get a lot of penetration.”
Godkin has filled a big hole at linebacker. He moved over to replace graduated three-year starter David Castro.
Godkin leads the Panthers with 25 tackles, but Blake said his teammate’s leadership has been the biggest contribution.
“He’s much more of a leader than he was last year,” Blake said. “Now since he’s moved to middle linebacker and has more responsibility, he is really showing more leadership, and I like that about him.”
Godkin said he’s still adjusting to playing linebacker, especially taking the proper angles on plays.
“It’s been a little bit of a challenge, but I like it a lot, and I’m thankful I’m playing it right now,” Godkin said.
While Godkin has played well, he credits defensive linemen Dillon Chaisson, Erick Grijalva, Maurice Maxwell and Jared Olsen for the unit’s early-season success.
“We’ve had a lot of great play by them, a lot of penetration and a lot of sacks,” Godkin said. “So the credit goes all to the defensive line.”
Blake said: “Our defensive line has really shocked me. I really love our defensive line. They’re much better than our line last year.”
The Panthers’ agile defensive line will be especially important against Cimarron’s deep ground game. The Spartans have three top runners: tailbacks James Poole (231 yards, three touchdowns) and Stephen Nixon (190 yards, three TDs) and fullback Zach Barbara (125 yards, two TDs).
Palo Verde senior safety Ernest Hall said it’s especially important to contain Poole and Nixon.
“We’ve got to watch those two great running backs they have,” Hall said. “It’s very tough to cover two guys with such talent, but we go hard every day.”
Cimarron has been solid defensively as well. The Spartans have allowed two touchdowns, but both came in the fourth quarter after the games were decided.
“We have to be happy with the 4- and 5-yard gains,” Blake said. “We don’t need a big play every time. We may have a 14-play or 15-play drive, but it doesn’t matter as long as we’re moving forward, not backward. I’m fine with that.”