By Tommy Keeler Jr. -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Doug Murrell learned how to play on the offensive line the hard way.
As a sophomore he was forced into the starting lineup and had to go against players such as Sherando's Joey Christine, who was all-state on the defensive line that year.
"[Christine] was hard to block," Murrell said. "I think I did a pretty good job that year. I learned a lot."
Due to various injuries, Millbrook coach Reed Prosser had to put an inexperienced Murrell into the starting lineup in 2007, but it's paid off in the long run. Now Murrell, along with Michael Warr, anchor the Pioneers' offensive line.
The experience of playing as a sophomore showed throughout last year as Murrell earned second-team All-Region II honors and helped lead the Pioneers to the playoffs for the second year in a row.
"I think he has done a fabulous job in the weight room," said Prosser, citing the main reason for Murrell's improvement on the field. "He's worked really hard at it."
Murrell openly admits he's still not a huge fan of the weight room, but he's learned to like it more then he used to. However, the 300-pounder isn't just all strength, as he has some moves on the field.
During a 7-on-7 drill, Prosser used him as a receiver on a play. Murrell caught the pass, setting up a Pioneers' score.
"He's probably got some of the best hands on the team," Prosser said. "He might be on our hands team."
"I always wanted to be a tight end," Murrell said. "I'm just a little too big. It was fun making the catch. I like to do whatever I can to help the team."
Some of Murrell's agility comes from being a black belt in karate. Murrell said he started taking karate lessons when he was 13 and it took him a few years to work his way up to the black belt.
"It was really hard," Murrell said. "It was fun. You get to break boards."
Prosser said Murrell is one of leaders on the team and has become a more vocal leader so far this year.
This season Murrell is even more excited than normal because he's finally going to be allowed to play on defense. Prosser normally tries to keep his offensive line strictly on offense, but said Murrell has been begging him for three years to play on the defensive line.
"Sometimes blocking can get a little boring," Murrell said. "Playing defensive tackle is the most fun I've had. You get to tackle running backs. I like football because of the defense and the hard hitting."
The Pioneers lost several key players from last year's team, including quarterback Andrew Oates, and two-way starters Calvin and Clayton Rodney. The Northwestern District is smaller this year with just five schools, but three of the five made the playoffs last year and the worst record among the five schools last year was 6-4.
"I think we're doing good. Hopefully, we can make the playoffs again," Murrell said. "It feels weird being a senior this year. It's hard to believe I've been playing for this school for four years."