Football’s unsung playmakers live on the line
Published 8:28 am Thursday, September 10, 2015
The running back burst through the middle for a 75-yard touchdown run or the quarterback zings a 55-yard touchdown pass to win the game.
One has seen plays like this if he has witnessed a football game at any level, and the star is interviewed by several media outlets.
However, the real heroes of the game are those that often come off the field and head to the locker rooms with no one to ask their take on the game or the play that changed the course of the contest.
These players are the offensive linemen, the playmakers that are the front of ever play that transpires offensively during the game.
They are each other’s support team—a bond that is made while blood, sweat and tears pour off during the blistering days of summer practice and into the battle fray every game night during the season.
For Elizabethton, two seniors lead the way for the Cyclones in left guard Mark Chesser (6’2, 285) and left tackle Kaleb Whitehead (6’1, 295) on the offensive line.
While Jeremiah Turner, Jacob Turner, Hunter Tyree, and Corey Russell garner the headlines, it is the offensive line led by Chesser and Whitehead that makes the plays possible for the talented herd of runners.
“We get to bond as a family, and it all starts in the school and goes to the locker room and the football field,” said Whitehead. “We have got to take care of each other.”
“For us to play well, we have to really form a solid bond with each other,” added Chesser. “This creates a good chemistry where we can play well.
The work that is done on the front lines may be lost on many but not the one who spends day after day teaching and grooming the line into one of the best in the area—offensive line coach Jeff Pierce.
“What these guys did at Science Hill was pretty impressive considering their opponent outmanned them physically in terms of height and weight, but I think the intensity was great,” said Pierce of his line’s performance.
“They are really strong and know the line play inside and out—both of them. They are just solid. Mark was the only guy returning who has ever started a varsity football game, so I had four guys that had never started a varsity football game including a freshman tight end.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with the progression of my offensive line right now.”
According to Whitehead, although the line may not get a whole lot of ink on Saturday mornings, the ones that matter most always make sure to thank them for their work.
“We know it all starts with the offensive line. We have to do good to be able to block for the quarterback or make a hole for the running back. We know that we are important because the coaches give us credit. Also, the running backs and quarterbacks give us credit for doing a good job and that’s really all that matters.”
There is a lot of technique and physicality that goes into the positions on the front lines and a lot of communication exchanged between coach and the line.
Pierce said that when it’s time for that information to be relayed, he immediately looks to Chesser to start the exchange.
“On Friday night, Mark is the one that I will give the adjustments to first. He relays that so if I can communicate to one guy—he’s the one I go to. I look for him to be an example not so much with speech or the rah-rah aspect, but the way he plays. He has been real committed to doing that.”
When asked what legacy that they would like to leave for all the future linemen that follow in their footsteps, both agreed it was important to leave a lasting memorial.
“One thing that I want to leave is the importance of being humble,” said Chesser. “If you’re not humble, you can’t be good at playing football.
“I want to give a good impression in the importance of practicing hard and always going hard no matter what you do.”
Whitehead added, “I just want to never give up and keep pushing. It will always get better the harder you work.”
Aside from Whitehead and Chesser, the Cyclone offensive line features Chandlor Mullins (6’1, 255) at center, Luke White (6’3, 275) or Scotty Oliver (6’3, 285) at right guard, Russell Carter 6’3, 265) at right tackle and Garrett Jennings (6’5, 245) at tight end.
Pierce said the work of his line is like coal miners going to work.
“This group has a really good work ethic. They are not a big rah-rah bunch. They are like a coal miner going to work. That’s the way they come out every day. You have to play with emotion, but that has to build from Monday right up through game time.
“We have to continue to get better and keep our physicality up.”