A great middle linebacker can set the tone for a great defense.
For Caiden O’Brien, that’s exactly his goal, week-in and week-out, as he tries to lead a change in the Farmers’ defense.
If you met him in person, you’d meet a soft-spoken, kind and respectful young man. On the field though, you can find him making bone-crunching tackles with his neck roll popping out of his jersey and his eye black covering his face. It’s a different perspective of someone eager to earn a college scholarship from his play this season.
“He changes a little bit on the field and lets a different guy out there, but Caiden is extremely driven,” head coach Zac Quinlan said. “He never missed a summer workout and always listens to what the coaches have to say. I’d say he leads more by example, which is fine because not everyone needs to be the vocal kind of player. He just needs to go out and perform.”
O’Brien led the team in tackles last season and is well on his way to doing so again this year. He’s made 38 tackles in four games, 10 more than his next highest teammate, while also adding a fumble recovery. He’s got a nose for the football but is quick to not take credit for his work on the field.
“It’s more of a bond between all of us,” O’Brien said. “I can’t make tackles without my teammates doing their jobs and then I just try and do my job. It’s a team effort for us every play. If everyone continues to do their job we’ll be successful.”
O’Brien has played football all his life and finds great satisfaction in the game. As he’s continued to develop into one of the district’s best defensive players, he’s seen the life lessons it will help provide him in the future. He’s attracted interest from colleges like Southeastern Oklahoma State and hopes to continue playing at the next level.
“Football is great because of the lessons it teaches you on the field,” O’Brien said. “Integrity, teamwork and leadership are all things I’ve developed playing this sport and I feel like I’m one of the leaders of the team now and I have a responsibility.”
When a defensive player is a great tackler, people like to say he has a nose for the ball. While that certainly applies to O’Brien and what he does, coach Quinlan said his work in the offseasons and over the years has led him to have that sixth sense to make plays.
“Coach Blassingame does a great job of teaching him how to make reads and he’s great at trusting his reads,” Quinlan said. “His speed, strength and vision all combine to make him a great linebacker.”
The key difference from last season to this season for the Farmers has been the development of the defense as a whole.
Last season, the Farmers surrendered over 40 points per game. This season, with a lot of scheme changes to maximize the talents of players like O’Brien, the Farmers are holding teams to 23.75 points per game.
That includes a big win over area-ranked Pilot Point, who historically has one of the best offenses at the 4A level. The Farmers held them to 18 points in the victory.
“We had linebackers and struggled with lineman last season,” Quinlan said. “We do a lot defensively with diversifying our play calls and he does a really good job of leading that and making the calls on the field. He’s been important for us.”
With Bridgeport next, the Farmers’ defense faces a tough test for the new week. The Bulls have averaged 46 points per game through five games and looked explosive in the passing game. For Farmersville to win, it will take another big defensive effort in week six.
“We’ve bonding more as a team and working more together,” O’Brien said. “Hopefully we can continue to do well and get more looks and help this team win.”
To read the full story or subscribe, see this week’s paper and visit http://farmervilletimes.com