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Tevon Priestley brings a swagger to the football field

Posted: October 6, 2013 8:14 p.m.
Updated: October 6, 2013 8:14 p.m.
Canyon cornerback has made a name for himself in the defensive backfield, playing with an intensity that has been known to get under his opponent’s skin. Canyon cornerback has made a name for himself in the defensive backfield, playing with an intensity that has been known to get under his opponent’s skin.
Canyon cornerback has made a name for himself in the defensive backfield, playing with an intensity that has been known to get under his opponent’s skin.


Tevon Priestley wanted to get under the wide receiver’s skin.

So he pushed, prodded and otherwise overwhelmed his Saugus opponent.

“Last year against Saugus, the receiver and I got into it,” Priestley says. “I started pressing him. I pushed him out of bounds. He fell and got edgy. He tried to rip my head off after each play.”

And none of that bothered the Canyon defensive back.

“I see that as I accomplished my goal. That part of the game, taking him off his focus, it makes my job that much easier.”

One year later, the 17-year-old senior cornerback is your prototypical defensive player.

Short on finesse, high on physicality.

“Definitely, you have to have that swagger, defensive swagger,” Priestley says. “I’m very, very, very competitive. Once I get physical, I get in your face and my whole mindset changes. I’m going to be that guy in your face, in your grill.”

And when he gets physical, it’s bad news for opposing offenses.

“He’s got that demeanor about him and that swagger about him during games,” says Canyon quarterback Cade Apsay. “He’ll get the job done. He’s definitely able to change the mindset in our teammates and change the sway of the game.”

That was clear in Canyon’s season-opening victory over Westlake, when he was all over the field, disrupting the Warriors’ offensive attack.

That skill was evident again in a dominating victory over Clovis West, when he hauled in two interceptions at a pivotal point in the second quarter to aid the Cowboys’ runaway 48-0 victory.

He did it again on Friday, intercepting a pass against Steele Canyon, of Spring Valley, in another shutout win, 28-0.

What separates Priestley, other than his grit and tenacity, is his ability to react, says Canyon head coach Rich Gutierrez.

Priestley has a unique ability to close on wideouts and read quarterbacks — and that skill starts in the film room.

“It’s something he loves. He does it all the time,” Gutierrez says. “People talk about ‘all the time,’ and can come up with cliches, but he’s like this all the time. “He puts in work when we are off and we may not be at practice. I run into him and he’s doing work Monday through Sunday. He would film himself and we would upload it so he can watch himself.”

Priestley knew he had to get better if he had any chance of continuing his football career past high school.

Last season, his first on varsity, Priestley tallied 28 tackles and six pass breakups in 12 games.

“(Five) games in, I’ve seen a major improvement,” Priestley says. “At that first game at Westlake, I saw that film and saw the little things I could work on, and I’ve been working on those in practice. Just the little things, breaking out of my breaks in the backpedal. Coming off blocks, reading the ball, being more aggressive.”

His improvement has been clear in 2013.

Last season, a young, inexperienced Canyon defense gave up an average of 29.5 points per game, and the team failed to advance past the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division playoffs.

This season the Cowboys defensive unit has flipped the script — allowing 15 points per game and just 7.5 in its four wins.

And the kid at the center of it all is Priestley.

“You can do whatever you want (with him) because his skills have gotten that much stronger,” Gutierrez says. “The truth is this kid is the real deal, man. It’s been an honor for me to coach him and I feel fortunate to have a group of kids like that.”

That group will continue to rely on Priestley as Foothill League play begins this week.

Canyon opens up with Golden Valley on Friday at 7 p.m. at Canyon High School, and as they work through a Foothill League chock-full of high-powered offenses, Canyon’s defense will look to continue its upward tick.

“Tevon’s absolutely gritty, pure grit, true grit,” Gutierrez says. “You have to have a lot of grit (on defense). You’re going to make a stop, but the plays are going to continue. From pro to high school it really comes down to the defense, if you think about it.”

And fortunately for Canyon, Priestley can’t wait to get out there and get under his opponent’s skin.


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