Friday Night Mix: Offensive linemen Benton’s ‘unsung heroes’

2713

Benton senior Elisha Texeira knows if he does his job well, he likely won’t see his name in a newspaper story or mentioned on a TV highlights show.
And that’s fine with him.
Texeira is one of four starters returning on the Benton Tigers’ offensive line along with left guard Dylan Price, center Josh Simmons and right guard Colton Sessions. The lone senior on last year’s line was tackle Drew Brantley.
“We don’t worry about it too much because we understand that sometimes we don’t get noticed,” said Texeira, the Tigers left tackle. “It is what it is. When we do get noticed it’s great; when we don’t it’s kind of like … eh.”
For Texeira and his mates on the line, it’s reward enough to see Jermaine Newton or Doyle Adams Jr. break a big play for a touchdown, or Garrett Hable throw a touchdown pass to John Westmoreland or Ian McEntee.
Two-time defending District 1-4A champion Benton opened the 2016 season last Friday with a 51-0 victory over Green Oaks. The Tigers host Natchitoches Central, the only team to defeat them in the regular season last year, Friday.
During last year’s 10-2 season, Benton averaged 40 points and almost 400 yards per game.
Hable, who passed for more than 2,100 yards and 23 touchdowns during the 2015 regular season, gives his linemen much of the credit for the offense’s success.
“We couldn’t do half of what we do without them,” he said.
The success of Hable and company goes hand-in-hand with the performance of the guys up front.
“We understand the inherent value of a good offensive line,” Benton head coach Reynolds Moore said. “It doesn’t matter how quickly you get the ball out. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing. If you’re not solid up front the whole time, then you’re going to be in trouble.”
He also makes sure they know what they do is appreciated and noticed.
“They don’t get the publicity,” he said. “They don’t get their names in the paper. (Assistant coach Barry) Plunkett tells them all the time that their mamas know they played but other than that people only know they’re there when they get called for holding or when the quarterback gets sacked.
“They’re not getting cheered for when we’re rushing for 200 yards per game and everybody thinks it’s just the running back. It’s kind of an unsung hero type job for us and we recognize it and we try to make sure we tell them that.”
Like Texeira, Sessions is a senior. Simmons and Price are juniors. Junior Tanner Woolen was projected to open the season at right tackle, Moore said.
With their experience, Moore expects the four returnees to be leaders on and off the field.
“The entire offseason we challenged them almost every day to kind of lead the way because that’s what you’re going to be doing in the fall,” he said.
Texeira said the line’s job isn’t that complicated.
“Really, we just try to protect the quarterback and make sure the run play is blocked as best as we can, get a push on the defensive line,” he said.
There is a little more to it than that, though. Moore said they are all smart players and that gives him options.
“We can do a lot with them,” he said. “They can change protections and blocking schemes from week to week if we need to. They can handle a lot within the system and know how to adjust. Plus, they’re all tough.”
Hable said the offensive linemen are by no means dirty players, but they are “nasty and they can get down to it.” In other words, they know how to frustrate the players across the line.
The most important thing, Hable said, is they give him time do his job in Benton’s spread offense.
“I like to have them as an offensive line knowing you can go through your progressions and reads and not have to run for your life,” he said.
Off the field, the linemen are pretty tight.
“It definitely helps being friends,” Texeira said. “That way we can talk even more when it’s not on the the field about our plays and how to better ourselves and even complimenting each other. Sometimes joking around even lightens up the mood.”
Texeira, Simmons, Price and Sessions may not look overly impressive when they walk on the field. None of them have great size. But when the whistle blows, they make their presence felt.
“None of the four have a typical college offensive lineman-type build,” Moore said. “But they’re all four really good offensive lineman for us. They’re a really good group.”

— Russell Hedges, rhedges@bossierpress.com, feature photo/Jeff Thomas