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Indians’ hinge point is offensive line

Hart’s offensive line could play a big role in determining the team’s success on the offensive side

Posted: August 8, 2013 9:17 p.m.
Updated: August 8, 2013 9:17 p.m.

The Hart High football team doesn’t have many holes to fill on the offensive side of the ball during its preseason camp.

But the holes it does have could loom large.

That’s because for all the pomp and circumstance that accompanies a group of five returning wide receivers, a senior running back in Connor Wingenroth who might be the best athlete in the league and a quarterback in Brady White with another year under his belt, the lingering question remains, who will get it all started up front?

The Indians lost All-Foothill League linemen John Perkins and Austin Lee to graduation, and have been searching for replacements during the offseason.

“It’s the progression of that offensive line that’s going to dictate how much we put in and how much we do,” said Hart head coach Mike Herrington. “It’s going to be big. You can get away with some things, but we need those spots to be filled with guys who can play consistently and do the things we need to get done.”

Two of those spots have been solidified by returning linemen Blake Porter and Eric Stafford.

Herrington refers to Porter, the team’s starting center, as the strongest kid to come through the Hart program in his over three decades associated with the school.

Stafford is a two-year varsity starter at tackle who will be moved to guard to create a push up the middle, Herrington said.

The team has also received a boost from junior Ethan Quinn, who has taken over one of the open tackle spots and will start in the fall.

“His drive really,” Stafford said of why he thinks Quinn has earned a starting spot. “He always wants to get better, he always wants to show what he can do. He always puts his head down and gets the job done.”

After those three, there’s a lot of question marks.

“We haven’t even gotten in pads yet so the younger guys we haven’t seen yet in this kind of competition,” Herrington said. “We’re hoping by the end of next week, we’ll have about eight days in pads, hopefully we’ll have an idea. But in the past few years, the first couple games you might be starting a kid and his potential is not being shown and you have to rotate someone in. Our main goal is by league we have to have a solid offensive line.”

During preseason camp, a group of six, including Marco Ayala, Levi Macendo, Stephen Simon and Colby Percell, have been competing for those two remaining spots — with none standing out above the rest.

“The guys that we’ve been practicing with, they try really hard. They want to be in those spots,” Stafford said. “They want to start. As long as they can live up to the potential, we’ll take them any day of the week.”

As the search goes on, the workouts have been intense for Hart’s offensive lineman.

“They’ve been pretty tough. The coaches are definitely putting more pressure on us too,” Stafford said. “So we have to then take it on ourselves to be better and show them that we can hold our own and let everyone else do their jobs.”

Stafford and Porter are eager to get to next week, when the pads go on and they expect to see what the crop of newcomers looks like at full speed.

“That’s where some guys will step up and some guys will fade away,” Porter said. “I’m pretty excited. That’s when season starts. It’s fun.”

Porter doesn’t expect the questions to stop then, though, or perhaps ever.

With so much returning talent at the offensive skill positions, the spotlight could be squarely on the offensive line to perform if Hart is going to be successful.

“We expect to cut (the talk) all off, but people will question us just to question us because our skill guys are so solid,” Porter said. “If we didn’t have such great skill guys we wouldn’t be in question. But the fact that we do, that we are in question, is a good feeling.”



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