Bryson Eason and Martavius French are two of the linebackers who anchor Whitehaven’s stingy defense. (Photo: Terry Davis)

Whitehaven High School football team has always been known for having good defensive units, one that prides itself on not allowing teams to score. And if they hold an opponent scoreless, they really look forward to Mondays.

That’s because the team is rewarded with doughnuts after shutting another team down. They even use the tasty treat to motivate each other during pre-game warmups, saying to each other: “Let’s get some donuts!”

The team has “won” doughnuts twice this season, first with a 35-0 drubbing over Fairley and their most recent 76-0 shutout against Hamilton on Sept. 21. And the Tigers have their own “core four” of defensive backs to lead the way

Juniors Bryson Eason, Martavius French and Tamarion McDonald, along with senior Tyler Hunter, lead the Whitehaven defensie attack. Together, they are affectionately known as “The Four Horsemen.”

‘Most importantly, they’re humble. They are not perfect by any means, but they are willing to be coached. They are willing to work hard and do what it takes. The potential they have is so great.”
— Whitehaven Head Coach
Rodney Saulsberry

Errol Harmon would know. Not only is he defensive coordinator at Whitehaven, he’s the head coach at Havenview Middle School, where he coaches freshmen and junior varsity.

“I have been with these kids since they were 11 years old, so they understand the system,” Harmon said.

“To be a great linebacker, you have to have camaraderie and chemistry with the other guys that are in there with you,” Harmon said. “Those young men have been playing football together for a very long time. Even in their free time, they are always together.”

Here’s a quick breakdown:

Tyler Hunter. At 5’10” and 222 lbs., Hunter  is Whitehaven. His father isn’t just a 1982 Whitehaven alum, he’s principal as well.

On the team, Hunter acts as a mentor. Though only one year older than his fellow “horsemen,” Hunter is lauded for staying humble – and making sure his teammates do too.

“We have a bond that is a true big brother, little brother,” Hunter said. “I tend to be so stern and so serious all the time, but they give me the playful side.”

On the field, Hunter is a throwback middle linebacker – tenacious and nasty.

“We have come to a balance where they have their weaknesses and strengths and I have mine,” added Hunter, a two-star recruit still hoping for an athletic scholarship to help him pay for college. “They know when it comes to flipping the switch and business is at hand, they can do that.”

Tamarion McDonald. A three-star recruit, McDonald is a 6’2” and weighs in at 220 lbs. Though he currently plays safety, McDonald is versatile – he started off playing linebacker, but sometimes plays in the defensive backfield. As for why the Tigers’ defense is so strong:

“It’s our pursuit level and our coaching,” he said. “We take defense so seriously.”

Martavius French. With offers from LSU, Tennessee, Florida and others, French loves to cause havoc for opposing teams. At 6’3” and 235 lbs. he’s built to do just that.

“I like being violent,” French said. “I can see the field and I can move sideline to sideline.  I love running to the ball.”

Bryson Eason. Rounding out the horsemen is Eason, a four-star prospect who has drawn interest from Florida, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Florida State and Ole Miss, among others. He’s as fast as any running back in the state and  has a high football IQ.

He says he and his teammates continuously push each other to improve.

“We feed other each other’s energy.  When one gets hyped we all get hyped,” he said.

“Every day we tell each other we have got to get better.  No matter how they rank you.  It is not about what they say, but what we say. We are going to push one another to play to the best of our abilities.”

And calling the shots from the sidelines is Tigers Head Coach Rodney Saulsberry, who echoes Eason’s sentiment.

“They all have different attributes,” Saulsberry said. “Eason, French and McDonald are all young.  They just turned 16 and their bodies are ideal for playing college football.

“But most importantly they’re humble.  They are not perfect by any means, but they are willing to be coached.

“They are willing to work hard and do what it takes,” Saulsberry said. “The potential they have is so great.”