Uniontown offense line to anchor attack

| Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013, 11:24 p.m.

It is a wide-spread belief in many football circles that the game is won and lost up front.

If that still holds true, then Uniontown could be in store for a successful campaign.

With depth across the line as well as some returning starters, the offensive front will be one of the team's strengths this season.

“We're hoping they step up this year,” Uniontown coach John Fortugna said.

“They should because they have experience. We shuffle a lot of kids around that offensive line. We put centers at tackles, every one of those offensive linemen can snap the ball.”

Entering his third season as a starter, junior right guard and 2012 Big Nine all-conference selection Jeremy Perkins will move in from tackle to anchor the offensive front this season. He will be joined on the right side by senior tackle Garret Fox (6-foot-2, 200).

Perkins (6-2, 220) is just one example of many Uniontown linemen who have experienced early playing time. While Uniontown's 2-7 record last season is certainly not what the Red Raiders were hoping for, it allowed for linemen like Perkins to develop.

“Most guys would be just starting their sophomore or junior year, and I've already had that experience so I'm not really nervous and know what to expect,” Perkins said.

“We threw them in the fire last year, and they grew up an awful lot,” Fortugna said.

Flanking the left side for the Red Raiders will be junior tackle Rodney Harris (6-3, 280), while senior Todd Morrison (5-10, 200) will start at left guard for now. Jon Clark (5-9, 210) will assume the starting duties at center. Tight end Nate Guerriere can block or split out in passing formations.

Injuries have plagued Uniontown's line early this season, but its depth has allowed the team to move forward despite the pitfalls.

A starter in 2012, junior Joey Burke is lost for the season with a medical condition. Another returning starter in center Austin Williams is sitting out with a wrist injury, and Darius Pratt is on the shelf with a concussion.

But Morrison and Clark have filled in admirably along the line and will not easily give up their new starting positions to Pratt and Williams once they return.

“It's going to be a tough battle to get their positions back,” Harris said. “The backups are going in there and playing tough.”

With six of its top eight offensive linemen listed at 230 pounds or less, the Uniontown offensive front isn't your stereotypical big and slow line. Instead, the Red Raiders will use their quickness to execute a zone-blocking scheme that they began implementing last season.

“We're quick, we're doing a lot of zone stuff up front to help us out,” Fortugna said. “Also we have a lot of skilled kids. That's why we went to this. I wasn't a big fan of zone-blocking before, it was always the old fashioned way because I'm from the old school. But the coaches got me adapted to it. I went to a couple clinics, I learned it, and it's a great form of blocking.”

With returning seniors at tailback in Doug Lewis and Tristan Sandrosky along with senior Xavier Ellis at quarterback, the emphasis will be on the offensive line to protect them and create running lanes, a responsibility Perkins believes the line is ready for.

According to him, the blocking should help to pave the way for the team's success this year.

“I'd say we're definitely one of the bigger parts of what we're going to do,” Perkins said.

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