Offensive lines a common theme in east Cobb coaches’ talk
by John Bednarowski
sportseditor@mdjonline.com
August 15, 2013 12:02 AM | 3299 views | 0 0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sprayberry’s Billy Shackelford, left, and Walker’s John East smile as Pope coach Matt Kemper talks about his team Wednesday. East Cobb’s seven coaches gathered for the East Cobb Area Council’s annual kickoff breakfast, where they spoke about their respective teams’ prospects for 2013. 
<BR>Staff photo by Kelly J. Huff
Sprayberry’s Billy Shackelford, left, and Walker’s John East smile as Pope coach Matt Kemper talks about his team Wednesday. East Cobb’s seven coaches gathered for the East Cobb Area Council’s annual kickoff breakfast, where they spoke about their respective teams’ prospects for 2013.
Staff photo by Kelly J. Huff
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MARIETTA — Offensive line play can be key to any football team’s season, and that seemed to be in front of the minds — for different reasons — of east Cobb’s high school football coaches Wednesday.

For Kell’s Derek Cook, it involves getting players comfortable with making the transition from the defensive line to the other side of the ball.

“It’s unpredictable,” Cook said during the East Cobb High School Pigskin Preview, hosted by the Cobb Chamber of Commerce East Cobb Area Council at Indian Hills Country Club. “We have a lack of experience on the offensive line. We have three players that played last year on the defensive line that will start on the offensive line.”

Wheeler coach Mike Collins said his team has only one offensive lineman returning from 2012, and it may take longer for the Wildcats to settle on their starting unit.

“We will have to lean on our quarterback and our skill players early on,” Collins said, referring to a group led by Mississippi State-bound quarterback Elijah Staley. “But our (young) offensive linemen will be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.”

Then there’s the other end of the spectrum.

Lassiter coach Jep Irwin said six of his top seven offensive linemen are back from last year, including Class AAAAAA all-state first-teamer Sam Wood, and that’s one of the few areas on the team where Irwin knows what to expect.

“We have a lot of production to replace,” said Irwin, who addressed the team’s needs of replacing nearly its entire receiving corps and Cobb County’s all-time leading passer, Eddie Printz.

While Lassiter may have to mold the offense to the line early on, Pope coach Matt Kemper talked about how his physical offensive front — including his son, 6-foot-4, 305-pound Max Kemper, and 6-7, 320-pound Quintin Bange — will be the Greyhounds’ calling card.

“Like a lot of (previous) Pope teams, we’ll have some size up front,” Matt Kemper said. “We’ll struggle to find some speed at our skill positions. So, we’ll play to be home at 9 p.m., with a 10-7 win, and eating dinner.”

Like the Greyhounds, Sprayberry has had its share of big, physical linemen under coach Billy Shackelford, and he said that physical play is a basis for some of life’s lessons.

“Football is one of the few things in the country that teaches kids to be tough,” he said. “It teaches them how to get hit in the mouth and get back up.”

Heard elsewhere during Wednesday’s breakfast:

* Walton coach Rocky Hidalgo has never been shy to say when he has a good football team.

Wednesday was no different, even as the Raiders replace such standouts as offensive lineman Brandon Kublanow, quarterback Parker McLeod and running back Tyren Jones.

“It’s going to be a unique season for us,” Hidalgo said. “We have the most talent we’ve had in a long time, but it’s young talent.

“Right now, we are trying to learn how to finish things. By the end of the year, we could have a dynamic team capable of competing with some of the best teams in the state.”

* Walker coach John East said no one was sure how the Wolverines would perform last season with a new coach and a team learning new offensive and defensive systems.

The result was the best season in team history at 11-1, but that’s not good enough for East.

“I’m stuck on the ‘(11) and one,’” he said. “That one was in the playoffs. I know all our goals is to make the playoffs and win that last game.”

* Kemper, when introducing the large and menacing-looking Bange, said that when Pope travels to road games, “We let him get off the bus first.”

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