Offensive line helping Rams average more than 400 yards per game
In the offseason, the Havelock Rams woke up early. They hit the weight room, did conditioning drills and progressed at getting bigger and faster.
The offensive line, especially, was serious. They had a chip on their shoulders after falling short in the 3A state championship game last year.
The Rams were solid on the offensive line last season, but head coach Jim Bob Bryant is really pleased with this year’s group. They’ve used their muscle and athleticism to push around their opponents. In three games, Havelock is averaging 463 yards (342 rushing) of offense per game.
“I’m really excited about the offensive line,” Bryant said. “This group is just as good as any since I’ve been here.”
Havelock (3-0) has three returning starters in senior left tackle Justin Wears (6-foot-3, 215 pounds), senior center Zach Vernier (5-foot-9, 190 pounds) and junior right guard Jaquan Godette (6-foot-3, 250 pounds).
Senior Mark George (6-foot-1, 235 pounds), a full-time offensive lineman last year, moved to the H-back position, a spot used for another blocker.
“I block as much as these guys do,” George said. “When I am out there, I don’t feel any different. I am a part of this team. We are one family.”
Sophomore right tackle Avery Jones (6-foot-3, 240 pounds) and junior left guard Howie Baldree (6-foot, 232 pounds) moved into the starting lineup after playing on junior varsity in 2014.
“It feels good to know you are part of something big,” Baldree said. “Making those holes and make those pass protections for the quarterback, and getting those touchdowns, it feels good.
“I love playing with these boys, these are my brothers.”
The offensive line paved the way for junior running back Tony Sharpe to gain 244 rushing yards in Havelock’s 42-0 victory over New Hanover last week. Quarterback Corey Cooper racked up 100 rushing yards in the game.
“It’s great to get out and block with these boys,” Jones said. “This is my first year starting, so I have to step up and have a big role.”
The crew up front has a goal to help the offense pile up at least 400 yards per game. So far, they’re doing their job. Havelock has gained more than 400 yards in victories over Washington, New Bern and New Hanover. Up next, on Friday night, the Rams face a Greenville Rose squad that’s allowed 43.0 points per game in its first two games.
“We are a lot stronger and smarter,” Godette said. “We can make holes for Tony and do a good job as protecting the quarterback.”
Vernier, at center, is the leader of the line, and he takes that role seriously. Still, he said, it’s a team effort.
“They expect me to be the smartest. I’m not really,” he said. “We are all one team, one unit and one family. When we perform together and as a team, that’s when we are able to make the holes that we do.”
Wears added that the reason the line is performing so well is because they are friends off the field, they are all athletic and they’ve put in the necessary work.
“We go out there every Friday night and we try and make holes for Tony and pass protect the best we can,” Wears said. “It’s more like a family, and we try to take care of our quarterback and get Tony to where he needs to be.
“Every day in practice we continued to get better and better. I’m pretty sure this is the best line we’ve had in quite a few years.”
Havelock is scheduled to host Rose at 7 p.m. on Friday in its first home game of the season.
Adam Thompson is the sports editor of the Sun Journal.