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Prep football: Crossing the line

Golden Valley’s offensive line has transformed into the team’s greatest tool

Posted: August 18, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 18, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Golden Valley lineman Adam Garcia, third from left, blocks a rushing defender at Golden Valley practice on Tuesday. The line, which was a weakness for the Grizzlies offense last season, has transformed into one of their strengths in 2012. It's first test comes Aug. 31 against Royal High.

By Jon Stein

Signal Staff Writer

The Golden Valley football team saw ups and downs on both sides of the ball last season — but if there was one unit that significantly held the Grizzlies back, it was on the offensive line.

“Last year, (running back Earl Johnson) had to do it by himself,” said returning lineman Adam Garcia. “He didn’t have a whole lot of support on the offensive line and games are won and lost in the trenches. So it really rests on our shoulders and we really wanted to improve.”

Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, Johnson, who managed 1,393 yards on 187 carries and 11 touchdowns last season, isn’t around this year after graduating in May — but whoever wins the starting running back job this year will benefit from the improvements the line has made during the offseason.

“The biggest strength is probably our line,” said Golden Valley head coach Robert Fisher. “Last year, it was one of our weaknesses and they’ve really kind of stepped up. We’ve got a lot more depth there and we’ve got some size.”

Led by returning linemen Kyle Edwards, Garcia and Juan Cervantes, the improvement in the trenches should pay immediate dividends for a team still looking for its first Foothill League victory in school history.

“It instantly makes you better because a lot of games are won on the front,” Fisher said. “That’s where it all starts out. You win and lose a lot of games in the trenches.”

Much of that improvement came in the understanding that while games aren’t played until August, the work needed to win those games starts in the winter.

“The big difference between this year and last year would be the offseason,” Fisher said. “This entire offseason, we as a coaching staff and as a team were able to do things we’ve never done. We’re excited for the things we’ve done and the strength and conditioning side of it. And we’ve been doing it now since December, so the kids are really together.”

The linemen rallied around each other during the offseason, tired of being criticized for subpar performances last season.

The motto, “Time to go to work” has become a rallying cry for the group, with each lineman carrying around a black, old-fashioned lunch box with their name written on the side.

“Last year those guys were getting chewed out by me on a regular basis and we spent a lot of time going back over why we were so tough on them so that this year we won’t have that same problem,” Fisher said. “And they’ve done a great job of that.”

Last season’s woes started with the basics: a lack of communication and attention to detail.

Cognisant of the success the team can have if its play were to improve, the group, which also includes Thunder Melendez and two guys competing for the center position, Daniel Rocha and Zach Clark, has worked hard on the fundamentals.

“The guys didn’t communicate (last year), they did their own thing,” Cervantes said. “This year, we communicate. We help each other out. Our footwork and our hand placement has helped out a lot on our blocks and assignments.”

“If you have no discipline you’re going to break down. We saw it last year; we missed blocks, we had sacks. We’re communicating better and have a strong line.”

The Grizzlies will still need to contend with the prospect of replacing its leading rusher, Johnson, leading passer, quarterback Reid Soliman, and leading receiver, Isa Bey.

But their biggest hole from last season, the offensive line, shouldn’t be an issue.


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