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Chris Overton is putting himself in a position to earn several postseason awards for St. Ambrose.

Coming off a record-setting performance last week against Robert Morris, the senior defensive end continues to lead NAIA with 14.5 sacks and 20.0 tackles for loss. He earned national defensive player of the week honors this week and is making a strong case for all-American status.

"I think he has to be," head coach Mike Magistrelli said. "He's going to get my vote for defensive player of the year in the league. Maybe early in the season teams weren't quite aware of what we had when he moved to defensive end, but by this point of the season everybody's game-planning for him."

Overton's dominance this season might not have been possible, however, without the play of Servando Duran.

Duran, a senior from Chicago, occupied the rush end spot last season while Overton played linebacker. Duran had a solid year in that spot, with 21 tackles and two sacks, but in the offseason was approached about moving inside by defensive coordinator Vince Fillipp, who wanted to move to a four-man defensive front.

At 6-foot-2, 235 pounds, Duran was a little skeptical but was willing to make the change to help the team.

"At first I was like, woah, but I said all right, I'll try it," Duran said. "I ended up liking it. I was good at it."

Duran had played a little defensive tackle in high school at St. Rita of Cascia and took to the change almost immediately.

"His move to defensive tackle was even more fluid than Chris’ move to end," Magistrelli said. "During spring ball and fall camp, we struggled to block Servando. He’s not quite as big weight-wise as a lot of the defensive tackles you’ll go against, but he’s so much quicker."

Duran's selflessness allowed the Bees to move Overton to the rush end spot, and the rest is history.

"At the end of the day, you've got to help out your teammates, it's a team sport, not an individual one," Duran said. "I think that move allowed the entire D-line to have a good season. Every team has to go into every game not preparing just for Chris or me, they have to prepare for our entire D-line, and that's what I love."

The pair mesh well together, running stunts and twists to open up one or the other. It worked as well as possible last week against Robert Morris, as the defensive line — which also includes seniors Kodie Olshefsky and Grant Wallace — combined for eight of the nine sacks on the day.

"Anytime you run a stunt there’s one guy assigned to be a penetrator, he’s going to penetrate a gap, and a lot of times if we do it right, draw a double team to where the second guy can come looping around," Magistrelli said. "It’s one of those things that takes a lot of practice and timing, and that’s where they’ve really excelled. They got down to where they could feed off each other that way."

Overton has reaped most of the benefits, but Servando is having a strong senior season as well. He is fourth on the team with 39 tackles and is second with 4.5 sacks. He also knows that all the awards Overton might reap at the end of the year are a reflection on the success of the entire defensive line.

And he's more than happy to help.

"It would be a great honor. He's a crazy athlete," Duran said. "Us playing as a whole, helping him get that honor, hopefully more than one honor, it's definitely huge. We're cheering for him. Hopefully he gets it."


Sports reporter for the Quad-City Times