Battling the trenches

Published 12:01 am Thursday, November 21, 2013

Straughn's offensive line has been battling all season against some tough opponents. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Straughn’s offensive line has been battling all season against some tough opponents. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Deep in the gridiron trenches, a battle is fought week in and week out.

Straughn’s offensive line has fought its battles throughout the season and will continue to do so tomorrow night as the Tigers host Bayside Academy in the Class 3A state quarterfinals.

Senior right guard Conner Livings, senior center Zach Riley, senior tight end Brady Page, senior left guard Dalton Watson, junior tight end Ty Ballard and senior half back Beau Spivey sat down in an interview with The Star-News and talked about their season and the upcoming game against the Admirals.

When asked what has been the main key to their success this season, the group said that staying and working together has helped a lot.

“It was just a matter of us just working together, and getting better each week,” Spivey said. “We hold each other accountable. If it wasn’t for these in here, I wouldn’t be as good as I am.”

This particular group of football players have been playing together since they were 7 years old.

“We spend a lot of time together,” Livings said. “We’ve been doing this together for a long time.”

It wasn’t until he was in the eighth grade that Spivey joined the big bunch.

“I remember lining up in front of Conner,” he said. “I was a defensive lineman, and I was thinking, ‘God bless, they’re huge.'”

Early in the season, the Tigers were trying to find their identity on the field.

Straughn’s identity became well-known, especially on the offensive side of the ball, where it has averaged 29 points per game, including the playoffs.

The Tigers faced the Admirals once already this season, where SHS beat Bayside 40-22.

The win over Bayside was considered the turning point of the season for the offensive line.

“That was where we played together as a whole unit for four quarters,” Watson said.

Playing as a unit was needed solely because late in the game, Bayside was still in it, despite Straughn leading by single digits. Thankfully, the Tigers added two quick scores within the last eight minutes to put the contest out of reach.

“It was all about finishing,” Livings said. “We play hard all the way through the fourth quarter, not matter what the score is.”

There have been times during games where either the Tigers’ offense or defense fails to score on a drive or gives up a touchdown.

“We always go over there and tell them we’ve got your backs,” Riley said. “We tell them that we’re going to take this ball and try to go down and score. It’s the same way with us when we come off the field and have a bad drive — it’s just sticking together and being who we are.”

Luckily for these front six, playing with an option-based offense has become second nature.

“We’ve done it all our lives,” Spivey said. “It comes pretty naturally. We do it so many times that it’s going out of style.”

Creating big holes and moving the line of scrimmage are the two big keys in playing under an option-based scheme, the line said.

When asked if they knew they were going to make it this far this season, the front six didn’t hesitate on their answer.

“We have a goal in mind that we haven’t reached,” Watson said.

Livings added: “This is another step toward our main goal that we haven’t gotten.”

Riley put things in perspective when he said that tomorrow’s game might be the last time the 21 seniors will play on their home field.

“We just need to make it worth it,” Riley said.

Conner is the son of Tricia and Scott Livings of Gantt; Beau is the son of Penny Harrell and Jeff Spivey of Andalusia; Zach is the son of Rhett and Linda Riley of Andalusia; Brady is the son of Hope Griggs and Chris Page of Andalusia; Dalton is the son of Joey and Penney Watson of Andalusia; and Ty is the son of Heath and Becky Ballard of Rose Hill.