Game of the Week: O-line helping Pioneers heading into matchup with Colonels

By ROBERT NIEDZWIECKI | The Winchester Star 
Oct 13, 2017
WINCHESTER — Prior to last week’s football game against Millbrook, Handley coach John Davis said the Pioneers have “two of the best skill guys in the state of Virginia” in running back/wide receiver Savon Smith and quarterback Isaac Brown.
Even the most exceptional athletes need some outside help to perform at their best though, and Millbrook’s offensive line has done a pretty exceptional job with that.
In 2016, Millbrook averaged 400.6 yards and 42.3 points per game en route to posting a school-record 10 wins. Only one starter is back from the offensive line that helped achieve those numbers, but the Pioneers have been even better in 2017 while shifting from a run-based offense to a more balanced approach.
Heading into tonight’s 7 p.m. Class 4 Northwestern District clash at James Wood (2-4, 0-2 Class 4 Northwestern), Millbrook (7-0, 3-0) is averaging 430.1 yards and 53 points per game.
Senior center Nic Kline (5-foot-7, 230 pounds) — an All-Conference 21 West second team selection last year — is the returning starter for the unit.
Millbrook’s starting lineup also features guards Kelvin Enriquez (junior, 5-10, 225) and Tyler Duckstein (sophomore, 6-0, 225) and tackles Zach Harrison (sophomore, 6-2, 275) and Zach Clowser (junior, 6-0, 255).
“I think they’ve done what we’ve asked them to do, and what we expected of them,” Pioneers head coach Josh Haymore said. “They’ve done a good job of working hard every day and getting things done that they needed to get done.”
And with the help of offensive line coach Eric Ratliff, Haymore said the new starters were more than ready to take on expanded roles after seeing some time as reserves last year thanks to numerous Pioneer routs.
“He’s a grinder,” Haymore said. “He was going to find a way to make those guys better. He gets on Hudl and sends them [video] clips all time. He’s always doing something to try and help them understand what the defense is going to do against them that week.”
Last year’s offensive line helped Millbrook produce 329.7 rushing yards per game, but the addition of Brown, a transfer from Martinsburg (W.Va.), has put a lot more on the plate of this year’s offensive line.
Brown is already 66 of 106 for 1,194 yards, 13 touchdowns and three interceptions this year. Millbrook passed for all of 851 yards in the 2016 season.
“I like doing more pass blocking,” Kline said. “Other teams have to be more aware of what we’re doing, and we’re doing a really good job of throwing the ball.
“I was pretty confident of what the line could do this year, and we’re doing what I expected. We’re just getting better week to week. We come in and watch film on Saturdays, and we get better all the time.”
While the Pioneers — the top-rated team in Region 4C — are coming off a 43-0 win against Handley, No. 11 James Wood suffered a 48-0 loss to unbeaten Liberty last week.
Though the final score wound up lopsided, the Colonels gave the Eagles all they could handle at the game’s outset. It took 19 minutes of game action before Liberty was finally able to put points on the scoreboard.
“That first quarter and a half was probably some of the best ball that we’ve played, because [Liberty] is a really good team,” said senior offensive and defensive lineman Dominic Revettta. “We had some chances to score. They had some chances to score, and we stopped them. They had guys who were 6-4, 305, big boys, guys that you would see in college.”
Liberty scored 21 points in the final five minutes of the half to propel itself to the win.
Revetta noted that James Wood did a good job of containing Liberty’s running backs, which will certainly be a key factor this week. Though the Pioneers will likely continue to mix it up, they rushed for 400 yards in last year’s 56-0 win, which evened the all-time series with the Colonels 7-7.
“Everyone knows they have a lot of speed,” Revetta said. “They’ve got the quick guys who can get to the outside, and everyone knows we’re a big, power team. We’ve got to contain their runners. If they try running the sweep, we’ve got to get the outside guys to push them back in, so we have more playmakers getting to the ball. We’ve got to keep an eye on their quarterback, and we’ve got to watch the inside run too.”
Smith has 1,043 yards and 20 touchdowns rushing and receiving for Millbrook.
“What speed does is get you out of the angles you’re normally used to,” James Wood coach Ryan Morgan said. “With their speed, we have to make sure we’re being disciplined rather than taking poor angles to try and get over the top. We tell our kids to track the near hip of the ballcarrier. They need to make sure they do that rather than aiming somewhere else, because [Millbrook has] some guys who cut back who can make you pay by going 60 yards for a touchdown.”
James Wood only gained 107 yards last week, but the Colonels could receive a boost with the return of running back William Crowder.
The sophomore — who hasn’t played since suffering an injury in the fourth quarter of the team’s loss to Warren County on Sept. 15 — leads the team in scoring with 32 points, and his 242 yards rushing on 30 carries still ranks second on the team in yardage.
Morgan said Crowder is still working his way back into shape as far as conditioning, but he was practicing on Tuesday.
James Wood will also look for sophomore Carson Hoberg to continue to make strides. Hoberg has seen most of the playing time at quarterback in the past two games.
Morgan said the wing-T offense has been an adjustment for him after playing in a spread offense last year in Oregon, but he’s proven to be coachable.
“He’s come a long way,” said Morgan of Hoberg (19 of 40 for 213 yards, two TDs and zero interceptions).
Morgan said James Wood will have to do a good job of picking up Millbrook’s slants and blitzes.
“They do a good job of confusing the offensive line,” Morgan said, “They open up gaps up front when offensive linemen block the wrong guy.”
“We’re going to have to execute on defense, because they execute really well,” Haymore said. “They’re fundamentally sound, and they’re physical.”
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