It’s either one or the other when it comes to a team’s offensive line.
Fans and followers don’t pay attention to it when it is playing well. Fans definitely take note when it’s struggling.
In the case of the Southlake Carroll football team’s 2016 offensive line, it’s been the former. That’s contributed to the Dragons (10-1) winning their last 10 games and preparing for No. 2 DeSoto (11-0) in a Class 6A Region I Division I area meeting at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Clark Field in Plano.
This Fab 5 – senior left tackle Carson Green, junior left guard Matthew Leehan, senior center Ryan Miller, junior right tackle Jackson Kimble and senior right guard Henry Klinge – have been a work in progress since spring camp started in late April. Green was the only returning starter. But the progress is far from finished. At least, that’s what Carroll hopes.
“We come to practice with a mindset to get better,” Miller said. “That’s really the key to our success in my opinion. We have a really good attack team. It’s all about trust and working together.”
The offensive line’s development has been essential to Carroll’s running game becoming one of the better units in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Mansfield Timberview transfer Audricke Gaines is a 1,000-yard rusher. Carroll is averaging more than 260 yards on the ground. This group has also protected senior quarterback Mason Holmes.
“It really comes down to maturation,” Carroll coach Hal Wasson said. “It’s been fun to watch them develop. They’re big and strong and take it personal. It’s knowing who to block, but most importantly how to block.”
Like many spread offenses, Carroll uses a lot of inside zone reads. There will be the occasional play where someone pulls. But if an offensive line can meet all of the demands of the scheme, it opens up the playbook.
It starts with their feet and the ability to move so backs like Gaines, Tre Sledge or Jack Johansson can be successful. It’s their hands, muscle and will at the point of attack that win a slugfest. Miller and Green will point to the opening games of the District 5-6A season against Flower Mound and Euless Trinity where this unit found its chemistry.
“We’ve had to work together and know we had to be the backbone of this team,” Green said. “We had a job to perform. So we made it a point to where we were going to be conditioned to give ourselves a chance in every game.”
The challenge against DeSoto is that. The Eagles feature multiple Division I prospects and an athletic defensive front that will make those holes tough to open. At Carroll, no challenge is ever ducked.
“Any time you have a chance to have a championship team, you have to be able to run the football,” Carroll offensive coordinator Mark Humble said. “We rely on those guys to be our strength. They put us in a position to be successful.”
The winner advances to the Region I semifinals to meet the winner of El Paso Americas and Abilene.
Carroll faces quarterback Shawn Robinson for the fourth consecutive year, but this time in a new uniform. Robinson, the senior TCU commit, was at Denton Guyer for his first three years before transferring to DeSoto this summer. “We did well against him two years ago and then not very well last year,” said Wasson referring to Carroll beating Guyer in 2014 but losing to Guyer in the 2015 playoffs … DeSoto’s offense is exceptional, with speed and athleticism led by senior wide receiver K.D. Nixon. At 5-8, the Colorado verbal commit has 1,011 (737 receiving, 274 rushing) yards. The Eagles, led by second-year head coach Todd Peterman, have five ball carriers who have rushed for at least 350 yards and their top four receivers are averaging at least 15 yards per catch … Carroll’s game can be heard on KWRD 100.7 FM with the pregame show beginning at 6:30 p.m.