By Tommy Keeler Jr. - firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- At the start of last season, Central had a brand new offensive line. The Falcons had six starters with very limited experience.
Naturally, they went through some growing pains, but this year they all returned and the Falcons have benefited greatly. With a year under their belt together, the members of the offensive line have become a cohesive unit.
"You learn how they play," Central senior left guard Adam Flores said. "Different plays, like you learn how the other person blocks, or how long you need to stay on a block with him before you can do something else. When you learn to play with somebody for that long, good things always happen."
Good things have happened for the Falcons this season, and Friday they will play in the Eastern Section, Division 2 second round of the playoffs at Goochland. Central has used a balanced offensive attack to win six of its last seven games, and the offensive line has played a key role in that success.
As good as the offensive line has been this year, it all started with the six coming together last year. Flores, center Tyler Haigh and right guard Brent Powell are all seniors, but none had much experience going into last season. Junior right tackle Cody Brill also had little experience, and left tackle Josh Gum and tight end Kolton Poston were freshmen last year.
"For Poston and Gum, it was freshmen kind of throwing the meat to the wolves," Central coach Mike Yew said. "With the other ones, it was really almost like starting five sophomores. They just didn't have any experience."
After last year, the entire offensive line worked even harder on getting stronger in the weight room. With all of them returning this season, expectations were high for success, but things didn't start out as well as Yew would have liked.
Yew said the players' timing wasn't real good at the beginning of the year, and their footwork wasn't as good as it needed to be. So, he made an adjustment. Yew switched them from a three-point stance to a two-point stance.
"Hopefully that utilized our strength abilities rather than the tremendously quick feet," Yew said. "They progressed from week to week, and by week six they really were starting to hit a stride a little bit, especially our pass blocking."
Central has thrown for more than 1,700 yards this year. Central passes the ball more than most teams, which means the line has to hold its blocks a little longer, but the players don't mind having to pass block.
"Passing blocks are harder, but it's well worth it," Gum said. "We got [wide receivers] Sean Semones and [Brandon Carter]. It really pays off in the end because [quarterback] Hayden [Bauserman] really knows how to throw it."
Poston has turned into one of Central's top receiving threats, with 25 receptions for 353 yards, but he said he loves blocking on running plays just as much as catching the ball.
"You never know, one play there might be a long pass, the next play our line could have a great surge and the running back will be 20 yards down the field," Poston said. "It's just a great feeling when we score a touchdown or something, and the line led us down there."
After a slow start, the Falcons' running game has really picked up this season led by senior Tyler Pattie and sophomore Daniel Molina. The Falcons have shown in recent weeks that teams have to respect their running game as well, which helps open up the very effective passing game.
Yew said that his running backs have also come a long way, and work hard to battle for the extra yards that they pick up.
"We don't have [Strasburg's] Rakwon White or [Manassas Park's] John Byrd," Yew said. "We have good running backs, but we have to fight for every yard even with a good offensive line."
One of the keys to the line's success this season has been how close they've become on and off the field. The six get along really well, and that has helped lead to good communication on the field.
Flores said it's also been important that the six help each other out and stay positive with each other.
"Nobody harps on anybody or yells at anybody. We just say, 'All right man, next time you got the play. Don't worry about it,'" Flores said. "Somebody has a false start, 'It's all right man, next play go 110 percent.'
"Everybody's friends, so that's how we've been able to have so much success."