Player Profile: Griffin’s voice staving off Panthers’ frustration

Published 3:36 pm Tuesday, September 26, 2017

PINETOWN — Zach Griffin came into this season as Northside’s lone returning starter on the offensive side of the ball. As such, he was tasked with helping to bring along a lot of the newer players alongside him on the offensive line and behind him in the backfield.

He said he didn’t feel much pressure having to be a leader for the entire offense. It is, according to him, his role as a senior. He and the younger linemen by his side have made strides each week this season.

“We started off, the new guys were learning everything, but at this point in the season, they’re perfecting their craft,” the senior center said. “They’re doing a pretty good job right now. It’s just a matter of remembering stuff and doing the right plays.”

Northside’s game at Riverside was an indication of how far Griffin and the offensive line have come. The Panthers’ run-heavy offense had explosive weapons in Jackson Midgette and James Barrow last year, but still could only muster two touchdowns in a 61-14 loss to the Knights last year.

This time around, that front’s effective blocking — coupled with Riverside’s losses on its defensive line — allowed for Raydarius Freeman to run for four touchdowns and for Johnathan Clark to also enjoy plenty of success.

“He’s taking a bunch of guys that haven’t played and really communicating well and helping them with our calls,” coach Keith Boyd said. “He’s our offensive leader. No doubt.”

Griffin is as vocal off the field as he is on it. His leadership in the locker room is becoming increasingly important considering the spell of close losses and resulting frustration.

“When things are tough on Friday nights and he comes off the field, he’s the one getting guys together and getting them straight,” Boyd said. “If they’ve got questions, he comes and gets me. He knows this offense just as good as I do. He helps me get these guys straight.”

It’s more than Griffin being a voice. He’s a positive force even when the team is at its lowest. He cheers with his teammates when they do something well, but even when something goes wrong and everyone is upset, he’s encouraging.

“He’s emotional, but always positive,” Boyd said. “You can be emotional and negative and bring people down. That would be defeating the purpose. He’s bringing positivity and bringing people along.”

Griffin’s optimism permeated throughout the team. Northside is idle this week, but has already been hard at work. The players and coaches were eager to get back to practice Monday instead of relaxing. That mindset this week will put the Panthers in position to making the push they hope will land them in the playoffs.