First-year MZ coach Keith Holloway has been pleased with what he has seen so far, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
“We really feel like the offensive line has come a long way since the spring. They had to learn a new set of rules. We’ve got to get better at picking up stunts, Ranburne (Ala.) hurt us with that and we know North Cobb is going to stunt a lot. We feel confident that they’ll get the job done,” Holloway said.
The offensive line is led by center Ryan Duren, tight ends Garrett Frazier and Nate Warren, along with Will Sizemore, Nathan Whaley, Tyler Watts, Joseph Akers and others.
With playing on the line comes a sense of being there to allow teammates to make plays rather than making plays yourself. There is a certain mentality that goes into allowing others to get the glory.
“Just stay low, make our calls and make sure we get everybody picked up. We’ve got some good backs, we just have to give them holes to run in,” Duren said. “It doesn’t bother me as long as we get in the end zone. Whoever takes it, doesn’t matter to me as long as we score.”
And while they might not get the statistics, the points or a lot of the glory, their head coach knows how much they mean to the team.
“The linemen’s work ethic’s been great. They’re the hogs and the backs know it and appreciate what they do. Like at any school they don’t get much glory, but we know we can’t win without them. Our goal is to get better every week and, again, learn our blocking rules so we can be successful against any team we see,” Holloway said.
Not only do they lead the offense through blocking and creating running lanes, they also lead the team in practices and off the field.
“[We expect] them to be focus and them to work hard every day, have a good attitude and be leaders on the team. We expect them to pave the way, basically. As they go we go,” offensive line coach Ian Lyle said.
Because of the depth right now only Sizemore is starting on both the offensive and defensive lines, but several players work on both sides of the ball. Frazier and Warren line up at linebacker on defense in addition to their tight end roles.
“We’ve been trying to use a lot of kids, especially early in the season. We’re not quite two-platoon, but we’re fortunate enough to be able to rest some kids. When we get Frazier back that will help a lot at tight end. Right now Nate Warren’s having to go both ways,” Holloway said.
Defensively the Eagles are running a new defensive front and that has led to some growing pains, but the players are putting in the work to learn and perfect what they are trying to do.
“In the 3-5 their job is to tie up offensive linemen and let our linebackers make the reads and run to the football. I think we’ve been doing a real good job with that. The coaches have done a great job teaching the technique for our ends and our nose guard and the kids have caught onto it. I was pleased with how they played against Ranburne,” Holloway said.
In the season opener Holloway already saw things on the defensive front that showed the players are grasping the system.
“Our three down linemen, i thought they played really well against Ranburne. Gage Reeves had a real good game at nose guard, he rarely takes a play off. Will Sizemore, Jacob Freund, Joseph Akers all played a good game at end for us,” Holloway said.
As long as they are working hard and making the necessary adjustments, Holloway believes the line of scrimmage can be a strength for Mt. Zion this season.
“We’re still learning this defense and the good thing was we played with intensity. We made mistakes, but we played with intensity. As long as we’re doing that we’ve got a chance. I’ve been pleased with them,” Holloway said.