Football: Line spearheads Ridgewood offense
NEW PORT RICHEY -
Replacing a sizable senior class is never an easy task.
For a Ridgewood high football team that fielded 30 players last season, losing 11 to graduation is a big hit. However, Ridgewood returns nearly the entire starting offensive line, as top lineman Chris Branfield and Andrew Spirou spearhead a veteran-laden bunch.
In 2012, Ridgewood’s line helped pave the way for more than 1,500 rushing yards, and with the return of underclassman tailbacks Clarence Farria, Glass Wilson and infusion of Darnell Williams to the backfield, the focal point of the offense relies on the sturdy blocking of the line.
“Because we don’t have a lot of players, we really can’t afford to get hurt,” Spirou said. “To make this offense really go, we have to block with everything we got each and every play. This offensive line is a lot more together than last year’s, and we have much more speed in the backfield with Glass Wilson and all the backs we have.”
Last fall, the rushing options in Ridgewood’s arsenal were seniors Tyler Vito, Elton Grigley and Brandon Green, with Wilson and Farria making brief cameos at running back. Now, a few months of lifting and running has helped transform wide-eyed freshmen into savvy sophomores, who now have a grasp of what’s expected in Ridgewood’s offensive attack.
What Ridgewood coach Jay Fulmer expects out of his stable of backs and starting five linemen is for the runners to hit the lanes with purpose and the big bodies to create those holes. Branfield, who has bulked up from 225 pounds to 240 during the offseason after missing five games in 2012, knows that it’ll ultimately be upon the play of the entire offense which direction Ridgewood goes.
“The coaches work our offensive line 10 times harder than they do the backs or anyone else,” Branfield said. “We’re training much harder compared to last season and summer. We didn’t even used to do summers before coach Fulmer got here. Last season was kind of just thrown together. I was out for five games and we were missing some players. This next season, being seniors for me and some guys, we’re going all out.”
Correspondent Andy Villamarzo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.