While guys like Duke Carter and Jett Duffy steal most of the headlines for the 11-0 Lake Ridge football team, there’s a group of players critical to their success that often goes relatively unnoticed, which is quite remarkable given that together they average over 300 pounds each.
“The offensive line is key for the offense,” Eagles coach Kirk Thor said. “When you’ve got a good group up front, you’ve got time to throw and holes to run in.”
Lake Ridge has run for over 3,200 yards this season, averaging more than seven yards per rush, and a lot of that has to do with the big guys in the trenches – the guys sometimes referred to as “the hogs.”
“That’s something Coach Thor has called us since day one,” center Anthony Narro said. “He says the offensive linemen are the hogs, the ones who always get down and dirty inside the trenches and work hard so other people can make big plays.”
Narro, along with Thomas Patterson, Tate Heitmier, Simont Scott and Colby Yates, are all 6-2 or taller. Four of the five weigh better than 300 pounds, with Yates the lightweight of the bunch at a mere 260 pounds – at least according to the roster, though Narro thinks Yates has added a few pounds. Regardless, it takes more than size to make a good offensive line.
“Those guys are not just big bodies, they’re also big kids who can really run and move,” Thor asserted. “They’ve got good feet; really quick feet. So they’re really good athletes as well. When you put that together with the size they have, that’s why they’ve seen a lot of success.”
Though a few are first-year starters, all have been in the program for a few years.
“Working with these guys and hanging out with them off the field and having fun on the field brings it all together where you actually understand that the person to your left and right is the person who’s going to help you every game,” Narro said. “You build a brotherhood with those guys.”
“Playing offensive line is really a brotherhood – a band of brothers,” he added. “We all know we have the same task at hand and that’s to move the person in front of us. That’s the ultimate goal.”
Thor credits position coach Rubin Covington for his role in bringing the hogs along. He said they keep the schemes simple, though the technique is tough to master. Keeping the schemes simple allows the players to take advantage of their athletic abilities.
“It’s a position that you’ve got to play a lot to get better at it,” he added.
It’s also a position that requires checking your ego at the door. Typically, the few times an offensive lineman may get noticed in a game is because of a mistake.
“Offensive linemen don’t get a lot of press and they don’t get a lot of attention,” Thor said. “You’ve got to be able to play and not worry about how much attention you get or getting your name in the paper. It’s the guys who you block to make the holes for, it’s the guys you protect so they can throw and catch and get all the credit in the newspaper. As an offensive lineman you just have to have the mentality that you know it starts with a good offensive line.”
Thor said his group does a great job of that.
“We take pride in seeing [the skill players’] names in the newspaper because we know that the reason their names are in there is because of us,” Narro said. “They give us credit and tell us without us they wouldn’t be anywhere.”
“They’re team-centered and team-first guys,” Thor added. “They take a lot of pride in the guys who get the stats because they know they’re the foundation behind it. It’s a tough position and you’ve got to set your ego aside.”