By Anthony Rhoads
The Lovejoy Wildcats have rolled to a 6-0 record and have been ranked in the top 10 in Class AAAAA for most of the season.
One of the reasons the team has done so well this year has been a high-powered offense with quarterback Kisan Flakes at the helm. Flakes has put up impressive numbers this year and backfield mates Aaron Williams and Mark Pettaway have also been racking up yardage this year.
But an important yet sometimes overlooked cog in the offensive machine has been the offensive line.
"With our offense, it's probably the most important ingredient," Lovejoy head coach Al Hughes said. "The most important part of our offense if pass protection. No matter what routes you run or what your quarterback does, if you can't protect the football, you're not going to get anywhere. If you can't block, you're not going to be able to run the ball."
Unlike most high school programs, Lovejoy uses a spread offense or as they like to call it the ?P.E. offense.' In the spread offense, the emphasis is on passing and at times, Lovejoy will line up five wide receivers.
It adds up to an exciting brand of football that the linemen are glad to be a part of.
"It's different than other high schools," center Andy Lassiter said. "With a passing offense and P.E. offense, we have more fun than anyone else."
With a pass-oriented offense, the linemen have to focus on pass protection rather than just straight-ahead blocking.
"It's not really challenging at all," left tackle Chris Scott said. "It's fun. It's definitely a fun offense."
With the spread offensive system, offensive linemen have to not only be big and strong but athletic as well.
"In our system, they have to be athletic with mobility, great feet and hip flexibility, especially on the left side because they are protecting the quarterback's blind side," Hughes said.
Even though winning is the bottom line, Scott said he takes great pride when the offense puts up good stats during a game.
"I feel good about that," Scott said. "If they put up great numbers, it reflects on the offensive line and we had a big part in that."
Hughes, a former offensive lineman who played center at JonesboroHigh before moving on to Jacksonville (Ala.) State said the offensive line has to perform as a unit for the team to be successful. If the pass protection or the run blocking fails, the offense will sputter or completely fall apart.
"Football is the ultimate team sport, especially the offensive line," he said. "The offensive line has to work as five and work as a unit. (The offensive line this year) is a great group of kids. They have great size, athleticism and they have great minds for the game of football."