GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Back in the 1980-90s of NFL football lore, the Washington Redskins fielder one of the more renowned offensive lines in football led by three-time Super Bowl champions Russ …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Back in the 1980-90s of NFL football lore, the Washington Redskins fielder one of the more renowned offensive lines in football led by three-time Super Bowl champions Russ Grimm, Joe Jacoby and Jeff Bostic and coached by Joe Gibbs.
The common factor of all three gentlemen and the other ‘Hogs” was size with the group averaging 273 pounds with many tipping the scales over 300 pounds.
Fast forward to Clay County high school football 2018 and there are a handful of potential “Hogs” on each of our six public high schools; led by Oakleaf High behemoth Jalen Rivers, a massive 6’-5”, 325 pound junior who has the fleet feet of speedster Keshawn King at running back behind him looking to surpass his 1600 rushing yards of 2017. Rivers, with offers around the SEC and ACC, is considered a top 10 offensive line recruit in most polls with a recent invite to an All-American all star game.
“Jalen is a gentle giant, but, at the same time, he is a monster,” said Oakleaf coach Frank Garis. “He is blessed, but is also a model student and teammate.”
Next to Rivers is senior King Solomon, at 5’-11”, 250 lbs., another giant people mover with junior Seger Mckisick adding some heft up front.
The rest of Oakleaf’s front line includes some underclassmen who have size and an affinity to the weight room.
“The young guys will be getting reps,” said Garis.
The standard of offensive line development has been consistently highlighted by Clay High School with their formidable five annually the eyecatchers of area football fans.
In 2018, the Blue Devils holster up up front with another set of power brokers led by senior center Mike Carns (285 lbs., 6’-2”) with seniors Jordan Collins at 254 lbs. and 240 pounder Ross Doan all leading the charge. Junior Joseph Grelli at 230 one of the smaller guys up front with Jason Cahill and John Haymore hovering just over 210 lbs.
The sixth man, using a basketball phrase, is senior fullback Ricky Bernabeu, who at 5’-5”, 200 lbs., who is usually the first man through the hole and considered by Clay coach Joshua Hoekstra one of his most important cogs in the offensive.
“I don’t really believe all that, but it is what it is,” said Bernabeu. “I’m just trying to help us win the game. If I’m the sixth man on the offensive line, I’m good with that. I’m the extra offensive lineman out there.”
Collins and his crew have affectionately embraced Bernabeu’s contribution to the task of opening holes for the Blue Devil running backs.
“We let him hang out with us,” said Collins, who measured the success or failure of the
offensive line by the potential of a compliment from hard-driving coach Matt Lawrence, a former University of Wisconsin lineman. “When you get the compliment from coach Lawrence, then you know you have made it; equalled the standard of past offensive lines.”
At Middleburg, the threesome of senior Jesse Saunders (255 lbs.) with underclassmen Cole LeClair at 290 lbs. and Colby Warner (255 lbs.) is a formidable lineup that returns from injury setbacks last year to give the Bronco running game another go.
“Smashmouth in your face,” said Middleburg coach Karl Smeltzer. “We were injured last year, but LeClair and Warner have been destructive in some camps and Jesse will lead the pack.”
At Ridgeview, where late season injuries halted the Panthers’ playoff drive, senior Cory Nicholson at 324 lbs. is the biggest on the line with a pair of big boys near him in Anthony Troupe, a senior at 275, and Holden Anderson, another senior, at 260. Senior Chase Tavener measures up at 270, senior Zach Ortman at 245 and junior Tyler Duggan, at center, is the smallest at 225.
“We have a year under the belt despite the injuries and we want to dominate the line this year,” said Nicholson. “Me and Anthony were both hurt last year. Tyler Duggan, at center, also comes back strong from an injury last year.”
Keystone Heights may have two of the biggest guys on the line with senior Dan Dodd at 280 and junior Joey Baxter the biggest at 335. Cody Wells is a strong 245 pound sophomre that will be part of coach Chuck Dickinson’s favorite part of football; the offensive line.
“We will win or lose with the offensive line and this one is pretty good,” said Dickinson. “The line will be our strength.”
Orange Park’s front four, so far, of James Rhodes (280 lbs.), Silas Little (285 lbs.) and Cedric Flanders (340 lbs.), plus Ben Elliott (245 lbs.) will be a formidable senior attack group that has been together for three years.
“The key is going to be chemistry,” said Little. “We’ve been working together three years strong. We just got to grind.”
For Fleming Island High, center Jackson Peery, 235 lbs., is a returning senior tasked to get the young Golden Eagles line up to speed before the Clay game. Coach Damenyum Springs has some young names out there with junior Cody Carmen at 280, senior Kerry Jonathan Pinder at 298 and junior Carl Shumway at 240.
Fleming Island has a new offensive coaching look with Clay High’s Ryan Wolfe now on the Golden Eagle sideline and Bartram Trail coach Justin Reagan adding some playoff experience to the lineup.
St. Johns Country Day School has senior returners in Wyatt Smith, Alex Mosborg and Ashton Correia as the biggest guys with Grayson Hall adding a bit of experience. Correia is biggest at about 6’-1”, 225 lbs.
“I’ve been a football player here since my seventh grader and a varsity player since ninth grade,” said Smith, a senior lineman. “I’m excited with coach Chipoletti teaching us a lot of new offenses.”
First year head coach Derek Chipoletti likes the enthusiasm for learning of the Spartans and hopes the depth of the team will not be a liability.
“This is the first year the school’s has had a preseason conditioning and weight training program and the kids have been very receptive,” said Chipoletti.