A couple of weeks ago, the Havelock coaching staff challenged the offensive line to improve its play. So far, the players up front have accepted that challenge.
The Rams rushed for 333 yards in last week’s 48-2 victory over North Forsyth.
“The coaches told us that everyone was saying how the offensive line was weak, that we were the weakest link,” starting center Michael Howard said. “We all just had to step up.”
Howard, at 5-foot-8 and 175 pounds, is the smallest of the Havelock starters on the offensive line. Yet, he is in his third year as a starter and has a chance to play in his third straight state championship game with a victory over Eastern Wayne in Friday’s regional title game.
“They like to pick on me,” Howard said of opposing defenses. “I get thrown around, punched, and whatever. I just walk away.”
Howard often must snap the ball and sprint toward the outside on one of Havelock’s many receiver screen passes or off-tackle runs. He credits the coaching staff for his effectiveness.
“They teach us the correct way to block,” he said. “It’s all about technique.”
Howard is the lone senior returning starter from last season’s state championship team. Junior Martez Morris (5-10, 240) started as a sophomore last season, while senior Nick Clifford (6-0, 220) is in his first full season as a starter. The Rams have two sophomores starting at tackle in Jaquan Godette (6-2, 235) and Mark George (6-2, 205).
“Everybody was in sync, and we came out with a team win,” Howard said.
Derrell Scott ran for 201 yards and Taylor Woods added 97 against North Forsyth. The duo combined for five rushing touchdowns.
“There were some things we thought we could exploit and take advantage of in the run game,” Havelock coach Jim Bob Bryant said. “Our line did a good job, and Taylor and Derrell did a great job running the ball and running hard.”
Bryant said the offensive line continues to improve.
“They’re getting better every week,” he said. “We’re starting two sophomores at tackle who didn’t play on the varsity last year and a first-year senior starter at right guard. Michael Howard has been there. This will be his third straight eastern finals he’s started, and Martez Morris started last year as a sophomore.
“They’re starting to jell as a unit. They’re getting better every week, which is all we can ask for.”