Olâ€™ Blue eyes would be proud of West Lincoln Rebels offensive line coach Mike Harrill because before he agreed to take the job he told head coach Butch Parker the only way heâ€™d do it was if he could â€˜do it my way.â€™
During the winter and the summer Parker discussed the possibility of Mike Harrill coaching the line. Harrill recalled when he was at East Lincoln that long-time coach Bruce Bolick had the linemen to himself â€” he had complete control.
Parker recalls what Harrill said to him before the season started.
â€œHe said to me, Iâ€™ll do it if you give me a free reign over the offensive linemen. He and Tom Sain worked together. Mike handled Xs and Os, and Tom taught technique,â€ he said.
The combination has worked to perfection in the early part of the season. While Gene Arp, Paul â€˜the Bruiserâ€™ Chambers and Will Tallent may garner most of the headlines, their teammates in front of them mostly go unnoticed â€” except by their parents and coaches.
â€œAs far as the offensive line, Iâ€™ve been definitely surprised and pleased. It all starts with Mike Harrill,â€ Parker said.
Coming into the season, only Antonio Rojo and Daniel Soto had varsity experience playing on the line. Even that duo hadnâ€™t logged many minutes as Rebels lineman.
Things got off to bad start as Keane Steele, who was supposed to fill the void at the center position, got hurt at wrestling camp. Luckily for the Rebels, senior Cody Baker stepped into that role and has been a pleasant surprise helping lead a line that has helped Arp and Chambers both rush for 100-yards in several games.
Parker is proud of Baker and knows who the cornerstones are on the line.
â€œThey give us some experience and tremendous leadership. Daniel Soto is the captain, and Antonio is the co-captain. They both made a commitment because they knew they were going to have to play both ways the whole game,â€ he said.
Another duo on the line share not only a bond as teammates but are also brothers. Sophomore Daniel Smith and senior Thomas Smith play alongside each other in the trenches. Parker canâ€™t say enough about the skills they have.
â€œWe recognized Danielâ€™s potential as a freshman as he played both fullback and lineman and he proved himself to be a playmaker. Thomas is just one of those kids who has practiced every day, wanted to play, never complained, and itâ€™s just been a pleasure to watch him progress.â€
Tight end Garrett Gilbert was unsure before the season if he was going to play due to different circumstances. He decided to play and has more than filled the need for West Lincoln at the tight end position.
â€œHe is not blessed with a tremendous amount of strength, doesnâ€™t have a tremendous amount of speed, but last year as a member of the JV team he made plays,â€ Parker said.
Not only has Gilbertâ€™s play been solid, but it also allows the Rebels to have the luxury of being able to rest Jon Thomas, another tight end, on offense.
Parker estimates that Thomas doesnâ€™t play 40 percent of the time on offense now instead concentrating on his role as starting linebacker.
Thomas is the final piece of puzzle for the Rebelsâ€™ O-line. Parker raves about what a great player and young man he is.
â€œHeâ€™s just a solid athlete that does everything that is asked of him day-in-and-day-out and heâ€™s a very intense young man.â€
As the Rebels continue to push toward their goal of making the 2A state playoffs other players may get the publicity and the accolades, but you can bet somewhere these seven young men will have a smile on their face knowing they helped them get there.by John Mark Brooks