Meet the Tigers’ undersized overachievers

Published 2:48 pm Tuesday, December 9, 2008

By Staff
By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
WILLIAMSTON — It’s a position unlike any other in sports.
Traditionally, an athlete’s profile raises in direct correlation with his success on the field, diamond or court. But when it comes to the offensive lineman, the success-to-profile ratio works in reverse.
Nobody notices the trap block that springs the star running back for his 75-yard gallop to the end zone, or how center made the right call at the line of scrimmage for that to happen.
Nope, all the fans see is that hard cut Mr. 4.4 in the 40 made to burn the linebacker in the second level of the defense as he high-steps the final 10 yards into the end zone.
However, should a left tackle blow an assignment and the QB comes back to the huddle with a face full of turf, the whole stadium knows exactly whose fault it is.
It’s unfair, but such is life for the band of brothers who choose to fight in the trenches.
The truth is, the play of the offensive line at the prep level might the biggest determining factor in the outcome of just about every football game.
By now everybody knows that Williamston quarterback Emery Griggs leads the Tigers in just about every major offensive statistical category, and that once he gets out in the open field it would be easier to wrestle the telestrator away from John Madden’s hands than it would be to wrestle Griggs down to the ground.
So now it’s time to meet the men that allow that to happen.
At right tackle is sophomore Keith Padgette, and joining him on the right side is junior guard Eric Cox. Anchoring the line is junior center Walt Ange, who is flanked by sophomore left guard Nathan Price and sophomore left tackle Rakeem Speller.
Together these five linemen have allowed for Griggs to rush for over 2,000 yards and 26 TDs, and have also paved the way for Williamston to reach the NCHSAA 1-A championship game at Carter-Finley Stadium where it will battle Mount Airy for state supremacy.
Compared to the unit Plymouth rode to state glory last season, these Tigers seem more like cubs. Last season the Vikings featured five seniors up front that easily weighed over 300 pounds each, while none of Williamston “Hogs” on the starting line breach the 280 mark.
In fact, there is only one player listed on the Tigers’ roster above 290, and that’s senior lineman Jamar Joyner who is said to be exactly 300 pounds.
The undersized crew serves as a microcosm for the Tigers’ team and season: They are small, undersized, hard to figure out how they got here, but every Friday they seem to always find a way to win.
Nobody embodies McGill’s big heart theory more the Ange, the Tigers’ center. McGill estimated that his snapper stands at a punter-like 5-6, 170-pounds, but the junior is the only player on the line that has started since he is a freshman.
So how did a 5-6, 170-pound junior become the starting center on a team that will be playing for state championship?
Let’s just say necessity breeds creativity.
In three seasons Ange has gone from being a stopgap to a fixture, and DeVeaux said he has emerged as one of the leaders of the line.
Helping make the calls in the trenches has also been Speller, the left tackle. McGill said both Ange and Speller have really stepped up this season.
The Williamston line has got the job done all season. That’s a credit to McGill and his staff, who when they first took over the team three years ago, had so few players that they were more concerned more about their roster size than their linemen’s.
The Tigers’ line is smart, and while they lack girth, they are physical, athletic and agile.
The unit takes pride in what it has accomplished so far this season, as well as all the work it has put in to get to this point.
McGill said what allows the unit to excel is that it is fundamentally sound, uses proper technique and does a good job thinking on its feet.
If the Tigers’ line continues to have the same success on Saturday as they have all season, their next adjustment may be getting used to the spotlight for all the right reasons.