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Preps

Dedication overcomes inexperience

Durant's offense entered this season with many questions. But its line's dominance has answered all of them.

By MIKE READLING
Published December 5, 2003

DURANT - It was a formula for anything but a state semifinal appearance.

A new coaching staff. Four offensive linemen starting for the first time. A blocking scheme most consider difficult to learn. A sophomore quarterback who wasn't going to throw a lot but, when he did, was going to need time.

Did we mention those four new starters?

That's what the Durant offense had to look forward to this past offseason.

Among coaches, there is a popular saying that goes something along the lines of: It's not whether you have adversity, it's how you handle it. Suffice to say, the Cougars handled it so well, they don't consider the situation adverse.

"All we thought about was winning the district title," senior guard Bo Hanna said. "We knew we just had to work out hard, condition hard and raise our level during the offseason."

Sparked by offensive line coach Matt Sparrowhawk, the Cougars did just that.

Each day, the linemen - Hanna, Daniel Boston, Jan-Michael Hargrett, Eric Rumore and Jason Fox, the lone junior among a group of seniors - poured into the weight room and began their routine of adjusting to a new coaching staff and trying to make themselves fitter for what they hoped was a long season.

The workouts were different than in past seasons because they went a lot deeper. There were more bench presses, more squats. In a word, there was more dedication from the group that ranges in size from 5 feet 10, 190 pounds to 6-1, 285.

"They've got some big hearts," running back Sean Zentmeyer said. "They've really stepped it up a lot from last year. I remember when I was working out this summer, I always saw them in there. That makes you feel real good to know they're working that hard."

Zentmeyer said when he breaks a long run, the first thing he does is think back to his offensive line and give it credit. In turn, all it has to do is look at his helmet to see the benefit of its hard work.

Cougar coaches present stickers to players for outstanding play to put on the back of their helmets. Zentmeyer and fellow running backs Matthew Stwan, R.J. Pollard and Fred Andrew get the stickers for accomplishments such as long touchdown runs and averaging 5 yards per carry during a game.

Zentmeyer has 33 stickers. Most, he said, are because of the line.

Finally, there was Sparrowhawk.

The new coach brought something the linemen hadn't quite experienced before. At least not at this level.

"All you had to do was look at coach and you could feel the intensity," Hargrett said. "You could see it on his face. All of the intensity in him shifted to the players."

That intensity has flowed onto the field. "They will fight to the end," Sparrowhawk said. "They know if they can give the running backs even a little crack, they can run the ball all the way. Those backs are pretty dang-gone good. Stwan, he breaks more tackles on one play than most kids will break all game. It's because of things like that that we don't give up on the line.

"They fight all game long."

[Last modified December 5, 2003, 01:34:13]


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