Typically a young o-line means trouble for skill players on the gridiron.
But try telling that to the Widefield offensive line, which has a handful of sophomores and one rotating freshman in the thick of it every game night - and continues to see success.
The Gladiators enter Week 4 unbeaten and has outscored opponents 92-23 thanks in part to their talented defense, but also a quick-learning O-line, which has allowed the offense to run rampant, averaging 30 points per game.
Senior captain Sam Reed has taken the new crop under his wing while playing left tackle. Armando Rincones at left guard, center Ethan Kmet, right guard Shayquan Moncrief, and Dillon Powell at right tackle make up the youthful offensive line, while freshman Timu Mataipule rotates in as needed.
“We asked these guys to grow up overnight,” Widefield coach Nic Olney said. “Sam was the only guy with any varsity experience. We’ve asked a lot out of them, and we are excited about what they’ve done so far.”
Reed said he doesn’t care that he is flanked with underclassmen on the offensive line. All he cares about is how much heart they bring to the field.
“You just have to hold them up. You have to let them know it doesn’t matter how old you are it’s just the heart that they have,” Reed said. “It’s not the bark that the dog has, it’s the size of the fight.”
Thankfully the Gladiators young line has some talent on the other side to face every day at practice.
“Going against our defense helps a lot,” Olney said. “I knew how good our defense was going to be so in the offseason I wanted our young offensive line to get as many reps as possible against them, and that’s really helped them develop.”
Reed also plays on defense and is second on the team with 19 tackles, including six for a loss. Senior linebacker John Underwood is another one of Widefield’s top defensive threats, and is ranked second in the state with six sacks. Facing Underwood in practice has helped the offensive line protect quarterback TJ Davis, who has emerged as a top dual-threat quarterback.
“Our kids have 100 percent confidence in each other, and you can see it,” Olney said. “Even on our outside with our skill players, TJ and our running backs, they are always pumping our lines up and really like what they are doing.
“Sam is our leader on both sides of the ball up front and he’s stepping up and the younger guys are really following his lead - and that’s so important in 4A football when you face some really, really good offensive and defensive lines.”