October 29, 2009 8:17:00 AM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
There is something special about offensive linemen.
Typically, the behemoths up front toil in the trenches to clear paths for darting running backs and scampering quarterbacks and seldom receive any accolades.
There is something even more special about offensive linemen in eight-man football.
In a sport dominated by skill players, the offensive linemen often go unnoticed as the fast-paced brand of football goes from one end of the field to the other.
But Victory Christian senior Ross Potter and juniors Hunter Johnson and Destin Edwards are doing their best to make sure their skills are recognized.
"They have done a good job this year," Victory Christian coach Chris Hamm said. "We haven''t given up a lot of sacks. Part of that is because we do a lot of quick-hitter plays. On our longer developing plays, they do a good job of making sure the three most dangerous rushers blocked."
Victory Christian will begin the defense of its Christian Football Association championship at 7 p.m. Friday when it plays host to Victory Baptist. The semifinal winners will meet at 7 p.m. Nov. 6 in Cottondale, Ala.
Hamm said the offensive linemen usually always face four defenders -- a nose guard, two down linemen, and a middle linebacker -- when the offense goes to its "Eagle," or spread formation. He said quarterback Parker Eaves has the ability to call a running back in to block to even it out, but he said the Eagles don''t like to do that because it takes a weapon away.
"This is new to us all because it isn''t what we have been running, but they have improved steadily through the year," Hamm said.
Edwards, who didn''t play football last season, said unity is a key for the offensive linemen. He said the linemen have to punch off their blocks and move their feet to get into position to block another defender. He said he and Potter and Johnson use non-verbal and verbal communication to identify which defenders they will block.
"We go over a lot of stances on pass plays," Edwards said. "We really wok on dropping back and getting our hands up and punching and sliding to kind of stay with the defender so he can''t get around. We do a lot of agility drills in practice."
The drills help the linemen be quick enough off the ball to combat defensive linemen who will line up wide to try to get a better angle to attack Eaves out of the spread.
"It is like a skill position," Edwards said. "In 11-man, you always have someone on you. In eight-man, you have to know which way the play is going and make sure where the quarterback is all right and lead the running back around the end so people don''t get outside of you so people don''t blow up the play."
Johnson doesn''t fit the stereotype of a massive offensive lineman. At just under 6-foot and weighing less than 200 pounds, he said he often gets asked if he really is an offensive lineman. But he said it takes more than bulk to make an offensive lineman.
"Football is a mental game and you just have to know what your opponent is doing and try to attack his weakness," Johnson said. "I think quickness (helps me be successful). I use my speed and quickness to try to get to the spot before he does."
Potter said the linemen are in just as good condition as their teammates. He said that is key because defensive linemen, like offensive linemen, aren''t always big and slower like they can be in 11-man football.
The conditioning also helps the linemen stay fresh in a spread attack that tries to balance its running and passing plays.
"It is (intricate) and it isn''t," Potter said. "If you''re new to football and you don''t know how to pass block or what number a play a run is, it is confusing, but this is only my second year playing high school ball and "I picked it up pretty quickly. The coaches explained it to us very well and quickly to us. It is simple once you get the hang of it."
Victory Christian''s scores reflect the offensive line''s success. The Eagles (8-0) have scored more than 60 points in all of their games this season except for last week''s 45-0 victory against Tuscaloosa Christian.
Potter said he takes a lot of pride in the offensive line''s ability to make the plays that keep the offense clicking.
"If we don''t do our job to make sure they don''t get back there to the quarterback, we probably wouldn''t score at all" Potter said. "We like what we do because we get praise from the quarterback because we''re doing what we need to do."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.