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Line play much improved for Titans in 2018

Arpan Dixit
Herald Staff

To become a successful football team, you need the guys up front to do their job on both sides of the ball.

The Mercer County offensive and defensive line have put the work in and under the direction of Assistant Coach Charlie Cox,  and have improved tremendously over the past couple of seasons.

“Coach Cox is a big part of the success of the offensive line, he really knows what it’s like to succeed as a team,” said senior lineman Sam Warren.

Warren said the physicality of the line has changed this season, a big reason for their success.

“The defensive line is much more physical than it has been in the past,” he said. “All four pieces of the line are important and if one player is slacking, then we aren’t doing our job.”

In five games this season, the offensive line has paved the way for 12 rushing touchdowns.

Senior Blake Russell said the line has made great strides during his time as a Titan.

“The offensive line this year is bigger across the board,” said Russell. We are young and learning, but the line has a lot of potential and once our offense comes together, the line will be awesome.”

Russell said playing for Cox has been a great experience.

“I’m going to miss him when I go to college,” he said. “We both understand what it is going to take for us to be a state championship caliber offensive line. We both try to instill that in our line and the rest of the team.”

Head Coach David Buchanan gave his thoughts on the improved line.

“Our guys up front on both sides of the ball have really improved,” said Buchanan. “A big part of that has been their work in the weight room with Coach Josh Painter. We are physically much stronger now that the previous three seasons.”

Buchanan talked about the improvements the line has made under Cox.

“He has brought those guys a million miles,” he said.

Sophomore Jesus Garcia is brand new to the tackle position, sophomore Richie Macias at the center position, sophomore Blake Brown along with juniors Gunnar Fister and Isaiah Morris-Kirkpatrick are all underclassmen playing on the line.

“In addition to getting stronger, our guys understand our offense better, especially the run game,” said Buchanan. “Fundamentally, they continue to improve as well.”

Two players that Buchanan said are playing at a higher level than this time last season are junior Noah Sewell and senior Blake Russell.

“Both of those guys are very effective,” he said.

Along with Cox, Coach Graham Heasley and Coach William Harris coach the defensive line.

““Our physical strength and fundamentals are significantly improved and we have been tough to block most of the season,” said Buchanan. “Sam Warren and Darrian Baker have stood out on the defensive line. Easton (Cocanougher), Gunnar (Fister), Brent (McKitric), Jesus (Garcia) and Richie (Macias) have been able to give us quality minutes this season.”

Cox had seen great strides in his offensive and defensive line.

“Up front, I think we have made strides this season and shown tremendous growth,” said Cox. “I’ve been blessed to work with outstanding offensive and defensive lines in my career. On both sides of the ball, this is most certainly one of the best.”

Like Warren, Russell and Buchanan, Cox said strength is a big factor this year.

“We are much stronger, which is a credit to our strength coach, Coach Josh Painter,” he said. “I also think our versatility and leadership is solid in the trenches. Sam Warren and Darrian Baker are doing a great job holding down the defensive front, while also stepping in offensively wherever needed.”

The Titans will rely on their strong offensive and defensive line to take them far this season.

Some of Mercer County’s defensive line which includes Darrian Baker (30), Noah Sewell (79), Brent McKitric (67), Richie Macias (63) and Sam Warren (62) line up against Lincoln County’s offensive line on Friday, Sept. 14. (Photo by Arpan Dixit)

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