So, as an offensive lineman, how do you know you and your running backs are having a good night?
Albany center Pierce Ziebarth knows, and he’s not afraid to share.
“The greatest feeling is them calling out the play to you … and we’re like, ‘OK, we’re still going to run it straight down your throat, and we’re still going to get the yardage,’” Ziebarth said. “We’re still going to block you either way.”
For an offensive lineman, sometimes the reward after a battle in the trenches is pretty simple.
“It is pretty fun to look back and see a rut in the ground that you just put from driving somebody back,” Ziebarth said.
It’s a feeling the Albany offense has likely had a great deal over the past two weeks as the Hornets have rushed for 716 yards in a 28-0 win over Grant and a 35-34 overtime loss to Loranger.
The No. 25-seeded Hornets (6-4) head into Friday’s Class 3A playoff opener with No. 8 North Webster (6-4) after piling up 357 yards rushing against Loranger, keyed by a 328-yard, four-touchdown effort from Justin Parrish.
Hornets coach Mike Janis said the original game plan against the Wolves may have looked a bit different, but things changed at Tuesday’s practice leading up to last week’s contest.
“We were really working on trying to throw the ball and develop that part of our offense at practice, and there were just some things that we didn’t like the way it looked, and we told them (last) Tuesday, ‘Look guys, this looks good, and this doesn’t. It’s ground and pound this week,’” Janis said.
That’s exactly what the Hornets did, and the formula wasn’t complicated. Janis said the Hornets ran 50 plays on offense with Parrish getting 31 carries.
“Of those 50, I think we ran power about 25 times … It may have even been more than that,” Janis said.
“I think more than anything, it was just attitude – what we were going to bring as far as our emotional game plan and our attitude that we were going to be the most physical team out there,” Janis continued.
Janis said the Wolves’ defensive scheme also helped his team’s run game.
“I felt like they were really going to challenge us and bring a lot of guys in the box, but when they do that, they also don’t leave anybody over the top, so I really preached to the guys if we could get a crease, we were going to have some long runs,” Janis said. “It was a chance for us to be very explosive.”
That happened as well as Parrish had touchdown runs of 41, 57, 63 and 40 yards, making play-calling for Janis and his staff easy.
“Keep doing it,” Janis said with a slight laugh. “Don’t get away from it is the biggest thing.”
The repetitiveness and success of the Hornets’ game plan was also helpful to the offensive line, especially as Albany worked its way back from a 21-7 deficit to eventually take a 28-21 lead.
“The most important thing to me was just making sure everybody had the right assignment,” said Hornets right tackle Ronnie Turbeville, who was the team’s co-offensive player of the week along with Parrish. “If somebody was supposed to get a down block, they had a good down block, or reaching to a (line) backer to help open up a hole and create a running alley.”
That being said, the Hornets didn’t get away from their passing game in an effort to loosen up Loranger’s defense. The Hornets went 1-for-7 with Nick Pregeant completing a 38-yard pass to Tyler Bates, who has more than 100 tackles this season at linebacker.
“We still tried to throw the ball. I think on the night, we really could have been 7-for-7, because we had guys open on every pass. The offensive line did a good job in protection … It’s just something we’re going to continue to build on and we’ve got to get better at is being able to hit those passes.”
Janis described North Webster as a team that’s a cross between District 7-3A foes Hannan in terms of soundness and Loranger in terms of offensive scheme and athletes. He expects to see an even-front defensive scheme from the Knights after Loranger ran an odd front, but he said that won’t change the team’s game plan.
“It’s something different we’ve got to prepare for, but when you have this much success – it’s two weeks in a row we’ve basically come out with the same game plan, and we’ve seen a lot of success,” he said. "That’s not something we need to get away from.”
Janis is hopeful the Hornets can avoid giving up big plays and can keep the game close to come away with Albany’s first football playoff win in school history.
“Maybe we can get a turnover here or there,” Janis said. “It’s a game where we want to go into halftime with a lead or be close and give ourselves a chance. I really think if we can make a ball game of it in the first half, we’ll come out in the second half and make some adjustments there and really be able to go bring it to them.”