Throughout the spring and summer, a familiar scene plays out at fields across Montgomery County. High school football teams get together for seven-on-seven football, akin to backyard football. There are no running plays and first downs aren’t 10 yards from the new spot; teams just have to get to the next cone.
What’s most lacking — offensive and defensive linemen — is what really makes passing leagues a shell of the physical sport for which people pack stadiums on Friday nights.
While they aren’t participating in the interscholastic offseason activities, area linemen are still staying busy.
“Linemen are working very, very hard,” Springbrook High School rising senior Azzan Goode said. “We don’t sit back and watch. We go do our own work. As a team, we all work out hard together. There are no days off.”
The Blue Devils get together during the week to work on conditioning and strength building. When they work on the field, players are grouped with their position coach, going over techniques and drills for each position.
It’s a far cry from when Springbrook coach Adam Bahr played for the Blue Devils.
A 1992 graduate of the Silver Spring school, Bahr played for current Our Lady of Good Counsel coach Bob Milloy, and Bahr doesn’t remember workouts being the same scale they are now. Back then it was simpler: players would lift, run and be done.
“What I remember, the coaches just opened the weight room and we went in and lifted. Now I try to have four to five coaches in there every night,” Bahr said. “We worked out hard, but I don’t remember there being a ton of position-specific work that went on.”
The position-specific work is working its way into camps.
Damascus coach Eric Wallich started the Battle of the Trenches Big Man Camp in 2011. The three-day camp, which begins July 9 and is open for athletes ages eight to 18, allows offensive and defensive linemen to work in a pad-free environment, with several coaches from county and collegiate teams focusing on teaching fundamentals.
James H. Blake center William McInturff said he is most likely making his first appearance at the camp, one of multiple camps he’s attending this summer. A rising senior, McInturff (6-foot-2, 220 pounds) said he’s grown two inches and gained just more than 10 pounds since this time a year ago. His focus during the offseason has been increasing his power so he can handle opposing nose tackles, which he said can sometimes weigh around 300 pounds.
With so much of his work done indoors, away from the field, he said making progress requires inner motivation.
“As a lineman, one of the biggest challenges is we don’t get that much respect because we’re not scoring touchdowns,” he said. “Not as many people look at us; they look at the specialists. As a lineman, you have to step to the plate and push yourself to help everyone. You might not be getting the cheers, but you know without the line it’s nothing.”
Goode, a defensive lineman, says his offseason has been geared toward increasing his explosion at the snap of the ball.
He’s at Springbrook every day he can, lining up against teammates on the grass field to go over handwork and their first steps after the snap. Without them, he said he wouldn’t progress as quickly, and neither would they.
And even though they aren’t wearing pads and going through the collisions inherent to the position, he doesn’t feel like he and his fellow linemen will be behind when training camp rolls around.
“You just have to make sure you work at it because you can say you’re getting better, but if you’re not out there working at least three days a week, you’re not going to get better,” Goode said. “And that’s the truth.”