High School Football

2013 Football Defensive Player of the Year: Poona Ford, DL, Hilton Head Island High School

ccox@islandpacket.comDecember 24, 2013 

Statstically speaking, Poona Ford had a down season this year.

Of course, few would recognize such when looking at the Hilton Head Island High School defensive tackle's numbers. It speaks more to the dominance the senior had over the past two seasons, which will continue over the next several years at the University of Louisville.

"I think the numbers that he put up last year are absolutely ridiculous," coach B.J. Payne said. "They were mind-blowing. I know he led the country in tackles and tackles for loss last year (among tackles). Trying to do that two years in a row is hard to do."

Of course, Ford constantly had to deal with double- and sometimes triple-teams this season for the Seahawks. And while he didn't post numbers equal to 2012, when he finished with 154 tackles, 44 for loss and 10 sacks, he nonetheless made his presence known to those in the area.

The Semper Fi All-American Bowl participant capped his final prep season with 135 tackles, 28 for loss and seven sacks. He also added 17 quarterback hurries, a pass breakup and two forced fumbles. His efforts helped him earn this year's Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette Football Defensive Player of the Year award.

"Last year was my breakout year," Ford said. " ... But this year, I was more focused on getting my team the 'W.'"

He certainly did that. Ford helped lift his team to a 7-4 season, the Seahawks' most wins in a year since 2008. All the victories came in a perfect 7-0 start, which included a thrilling 33-32 win over rival Bluffton.

Ford was at his best that night, as he found the end zone three times as a tailback while also recording four tackles for loss and a pair of sacks.

Ford found the end zone five more times over the next two weeks, as he punched it in from short yardage twice in a win over Stall before pounding in another three scores against James Island. But nothing came close to matching his performance against Bluffton, a game that Ford called the most memorable of his career.

"Most intense, too," he said. "I left it all out on the field that night."

The Shrine Bowler helped lift an improved Seahawks defense this year, as Hilton Head High gave up an average of just 23.4 points per game after surrending more than 41 per contest in 2012.

They did so thanks to a defensive lineman who rarely got a rest, as Ford also played on special teams in addition to his two-way duties. He still found time to make improvements, Payne said, despite growing exhausted as the season dragged on.

"He's always been a powerful player, but I think he did a better job of playing off the snap this year," Payne said. "I think he did a much better job of using his hands."

Ford just wanted to win. If it took playing all over the field, the senior was more than happy to oblige.

"My main goal was not to have a losing season," he said. "I've pretty much had a losing season all three years prior to my senior season."

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