Offensive linemen operate under the radar on every football team.
The funny thing is their role couldn’t be more crucial to the group’s success. John Milledge Academy’s starting five makes the offensive skill players look good every Friday, as the Trojans average 250 rushing yards per contest.
These trench artists routinely botch defenses, keep quarterback sacks to a minimum and open gigantic running lanes earning the unit U-R Athlete of the Week honors.
Trojan head football coach J.T. Wall said the line opens holes for any and all running backs.
“That’s how we’ve gone the last three or four years. We lean heavily on the offensive line,” Wall said. “We knew we had some guys that could step in and fill those roles in some big shoes that left. They’ve done exceptional really.”
JMA offensive line coach Cody Mahler said “the offense goes as the offensive line goes.”
“If you let your guy go one play, that could be the difference between five yards, 50 yards or a loss. It’s the most important position on the field. These guys put in more work than anybody else on this team,” Mahler said. “They put their bodies through torture everyday. They do the dirty work for everybody else, so they can get the glory.”
Seniors Daulton Rogers and Andrew Hayes along with juniors Jordan Bush, Ben Bracewell and Chase Owen make the Trojan offense run efficiently.
In his first year with the team, Mahler said he noticed major physical attributes right away.
“When I met them they were big. That’s the first big offensive line I’ve been around in GISA. I was definitely surprised with the size we had with our starters,” Mahler said. “I was also surprised we only had two seniors on the offensive line and one was a returning starter. Everybody else had never played together before, so there wasn’t a lot of chemistry there. We didn’t know how they would work together picking up schemes and blitzes.”
Over the course of the season, Rogers and Hayes stepped into their leadership role. The chemistry followed.
“They talk to each other now,” Mahler said. “Each week, they’ve gotten progressively better, and it looks they’ve been playing together for years.”
The O-Line studies each week. To begin with, coaches sent them off with homework to retain knowledge.
“Early on in the year and in the summer, it was a written test,” Wall said.
These players understand assignments against multiple defensive sets.
Tonight’s region championship game against visiting Gatewood will test the linemen once again.
“They are to the point where they’ve invested so much. It’s time to get the prize so to speak,” Wall said. “They are clicking as a unit. They’ve been really responsive to what we are going to try and do. It all starts and ends with those guys.”
Last year, the group didn’t do their job as well as expected.
Mahler said preparing for the Gators is about contained emotion.
“This week we’ve put some good guys on scout team running the nose guard and the linebackers. They’ve done really well this week picking everything up and talking. It’s been amazing to watch these guys from June until today,” the O-Line coach said.