This amount of work was supposed to kill Bobby Liggins, make him double over in exhaustion and teem with frustration.
Hephzibah's senior linebacker was the only returning starter on the Rebels' front-seven this season. He was one of just three returning starters overall on defense and was concerned he was going to make up for this by attempting to make the tackle every play.
"I was real worried," Liggins said. "Were (the new starters) going to be able to get with the program soon enough? ... My thinking changed right at the scrimmage game. That opened my eyes."
What was supposed to be an inexperienced defense has turned out to be a strength for the Rebels nearly halfway through the season. They have yet to yield a point in their three Region 3-AAAA games, and only 22 overall.
The Rebels will be counting on just as strong an effort in their six remaining games, which figure to be much tougher. Hephzibah does not play this week but is preparing for a home game against Lakeside next week, which will likely be a meeting of region unbeatens. The Rebels still have to play four teams in the region that finished with a winning record last season.
Hephzibah's defense has helped the team produce 137 points in four games. It has perpetually given the offense a short field to work with by causing an area-best 14 turnovers (seven fumbles recovered, seven interceptions). Along with an improved kicking game -- the Rebels have made four field goals and 17 extra points -- Hephzibah has already scored 44 more points than it did last season through this same stretch.
"It takes the pressure off when you know you have a kicking game that can get you at least three points," coach John Bowen said. "Keeps you from taking foolish risks and helps you manage the game.
"When you look down that field and see you got 40 yards to go as opposed to the 80 they're looking at all night, you've halfway got the battle won. ... They just play so fast. It's nice to plug people in and have the same success."
Safety Chris Owens has intercepted a pass in every game this season and leads the region with five interceptions.
Owens said his teammates are "putting so much pressure on the quarterback (he) is throwing little duck passes."
Owens is the only other returning starter on defense outside of Liggins and cornerback Marlon Jones.
Liggins, one of the top linebackers in the area, leads the team with 33 tackles, but has not carried near the load he expected.
"They proved me wrong in the first game; I'm not supposed to have 15 tackles in one game," Liggins said. "Ever since then we've been rolling."