Battle football's soft-spoken quarterback-sackers

Wednesday, September 18, 2013 | 9:23 p.m. CDT; updated 10:21 a.m. CDT, Thursday, September 26, 2013

COLUMBIA — Junior defensive ends Chandler Anderson and Chris Zachary plant "the seed of destruction" in opposing offensive linemen and quarterbacks. They'll look to plant that seed again Friday, when the Battle High School Spartans face Carnahan High School at home.

Comparing football to mat wrestling, Anderson and Zachary said it's important to keep wearing down the blockers on the other side of the ball.

"Mat wrestling is pretty much a mind game," Zachary said. "When you break the other person's mind, that's when you know you've won.

"When the thought in their mind comes up that whatever they try doesn't work, if they take a shot on you and you take them down and you keep doing this the entire match ... it's like the seed of destruction," he said.

"It's pretty much the same as playing D-line," Anderson added. "You gotta just keep attacking the whole game and wear 'em down."

"And once they think, 'Oh, I don't think I can block this guy,' that's when you got him," Zachary said.

The dark connotation of the "seed of destruction" stands in stark contrast to the soft-spoken demeanor of the two boys. The former Hickman High School players stress the fundamentals of playing defensive end, and they've been using those fundamentals to hound opposing quarterbacks so far this season. But off the field, Zachary enjoys playing the organ, while Anderson likes video games.

When you meet the two boys, you're immediately struck by their calm, quiet nature. It's not what you might expect from two big defensive ends — Anderson is 6'1", 222 pounds; Zachary is 6'1", 225 pounds — who like to sack quarterbacks.

They shared a workout bench in the Spartans' weight room and talked softly about their play on their field. They talked about their job in a cool, business-like manner, showing a little excitement when they discussed the importance of technique.

The boys said it was important to have a quick "get off," where you react instantaneously to the snap and use a quick first step to get the upper hand on a blocker. Footwork and handwork are key. It's important to get the blocker's hands off you.

The two ends demonstrated a move they use to get by blockers and get to the quarterback. They called it the "jab o-lay." Anderson took up position as an offensive lineman, and Zachary played the defensive end. Zachary used his left foot to take a step toward Anderson's right. Anderson responded by stepping in the same direction, setting up a block.

But then Zachary shifted his weight in the opposite direction, slapped Anderson's hands in the direction of the block, and then used his arms to "swim under" Anderson, moving to the outside (Anderson's left side) and around Anderson. Quarterbacks: you've been warned.

The "jab o-lay" seems to be working for the boys. Anderson leads the team in sacks (three), with Zachary just a hair behind him (2 1/2). Zachary has three tackles for a loss, and Anderson has one. They each have 10 solo tackles and have accounted for nine assists between them.

Anderson, who also plays tight end, said his job was to blow up a play and that he'd rather sack a quarterback than score a touchdown.

When asked to think like a quarterback with a big defensive end bearing down on him, Zachary said, "I don't think I wanna be in a situation where a large body defensive end is coming down at me."

He also doesn't want to be in a situation where he falls off the organ bench in church. Zachary has learned to play the organ over the past two years and, about once a month, plays for his congregation at Campus Lutheran Church.

"It's kinda rough playing for services because you have the pressure not to mess up," Zachary said.

His favorite piece to play is Bach's Prelude in F.

He drew parallels between playing the organ and playing defensive end, saying that "hand and foot coordination" were imperative. "And also keeping your balance," he said, adding that the organ was on a raised platform with bench that has no back.

Anderson joked with Zachary, saying he'd be in trouble if he fell off the organ in church.

Zachary joked right back, chiding Anderson that his most interesting quality is that he plays video games.

Anderson enjoys playing football games (the Madden and NCAA series, in particular), and he said that playing defensive end is much easier in the video game as opposed to real life.

"The D-end position isn't very realistic," he said. "You can pretty much only do a move left or right — that's all you get."

There's much more to the defensive end position on the real gridiron, and Anderson and Zachary support each other in practice to make sure they understand the plays. Zachary has a tendency to over-think the plays, and Anderson helps him remember what his responsibilities are.

Anderson said that Zachary asks a lot of questions of the coaches and tries to anticipate how opposing linemen will respond. Some of these questions are helpful, according to Anderson, who said that Zachary can point out a flaw that the coaches will see and fix.

Zachary thinks about defense more complexly; Anderson keeps it simple. Jokingly, Zachary said that Anderson helps him "under-think" the defensive schemes. The boys even each other out.

While they approach the game differently and claim they don't communicate a whole lot when they're on the field, the pass-rushing duo is doing something right, frequently getting into the backfield to disrupt plays.

Beware quarterbacks: the Anderson-Zachary pass rush will continue with a little stealth and a lot of technique.

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