Mundy’s Mill right guard Justin Brooks, left, and tackle Justin Darius Anderson listen to the play being called in the huddle during Tuesday’s practice. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
JONESBORO — Mundy’s Mill’s offensive line took it personal last season when standout running back Rodney Smith got hurt.
And it became their goal this season to not let it happen again.
As the Tigers host Northgate tonight in a Region 4-AAAAA play-in game, Smith is healthy, and the offensive unit appears to be clicking on all cylinders.
“I’m pretty pleased with that group,” Manior said. “We have had to do some shuffling, but everything is coming together for the team.”
Smith enters the 7:30 p.m. game at Twelve Oaks Stadium with 1,223 yards, which is 352 shy of last year’s total of 1,575 yards after missing last year’s season finale against Northgate. Like last season, the winner of this game will advance to next week’s Class AAAAA playoffs.
“We want to end his senior year right,” Mundy’s Mill junior tackle Darius “Pancake” Anderson said.
“They know when Rodney and (quarterback) Rodricous (Gates) do well, it is because of them,” Manior said. “When they don’t do well, then the quarterback is not getting enough time to pass or Rodney is getting hit in the backfield.”
Last season when the Tigers met Northgate in the region play-in game, Smith missed the game after sustaining a knee injury in a win over Ola the week before as Mundy’s Mill fell 15-3 to the Vikings at Southern Crescent Stadium. This season, Mundy’s Mill enters the contest as the top seed from their side of the subregion after cruising to a 5-0 mark.
A win would guarantee the team a first round playoff game. If Creekside loses to Ola, and Mundy’s Mill wins, the Tigers would claim the region title, something the program hasn’t done since the school opened in 2003.
For the Tigers to have a chance to win, the offensive line has to do its job, which means opening holes for the running backs and protecting Gates.
“We have to be aggressive,” junior lineman Camerron Jones said. “We just have to remember our job and do it. Our main job is to keep the pressure off the quarterback, and give the running backs the room to run.”
Darius “Pancake” Anderson is considered the top lineman on the team. This past summer, the junior was named the MVP of the the National Underclassmen Ultimate 100 Camp at Lassiter High in Marietta.
Justin Brooks is the lone senior on the offensive line. He says one of his main jobs is to mentor the younger players on the unit.
“We have to keep good communication among the group,” Brooks said.
“As an offensive lineman, our job is to protect the backs,” Mundy’s Mill offensive tackle Brandon Williams said.
Manior said this season’s group has been somewhat of a work in progress with a lot of shuffling of positions. Jones was moved from guard to center this season, and three players have played the left guard position. Injuries played a part in two players getting a lot of time at the left tackle position.
“Over the course of the season, they have all been doing a good job,” Manior said. “As you know, offensive linemen never get much recognition, but as a coaching staff, we are definitely pleased at what they have accomplished as a group.”