The playmakers on the Palmyra football team give credit for their success to the linemen paving the way.
The Palmyra football team has rushed for over 2,000 yards on the season. The Panthers have had a pair of running backs eclipse the 200-yard mark in a game and a third rush for over 100.
None of them will take an ounce of credit for their big nights.
“It all starts with the offensive line,” quarterback Jacob Kroeger said after a 100-yard rushing performance earlier this season.
Peyton Plunkett rushed for a career-best 230 yards in a Week 2 win over Bowling Green.
Like Kroeger, Plunkett deferred the credit.
“It all belongs to the hogs up front,” he said after the win. “They deserve all the credit, I didn’t really do anything.”
The players in the trenches responsible for the big rushing games include: starters Parker LaFoe, Michael Frankenbach, Jackson Powell, Brady Barnett and Kole Dietrich. Also in the rotation are Braden Erwin, Weston King and Evan Dorsey, who come in off the bench.
“I can’t say enough about them,” Panthers coach Kevin Miles said of his linemen. “Some of them are a little light in the seat a little bit, but they do a good job of using their knowledge of what we want them to do and use their speed and explosiveness to their advantage. They are super fast off the ball and most of them play on the defensive line as well.”
Ever since a 20-6 setback in the season opener against Macon where the Panthers rushed for a season-low 70 yards, the line has dominated up front.
Perhaps the most dominant showing came in a 35-0 shellacking of Centralia. The Palmyra offense rushed for 346 yards led by Jarom Alexander’s 222.
“I am thankful my team trusted me to give me the ball tonight, but really it was the offensive line,” Alexander said of his career night. “They did an outstanding job of opening up holes for Peyton and I to run through all night.”
Miles mentioned once the ball is kicked, his coaching staff does not have to worry too much about the linemen throughout the game.
“They really understand what schemes we want to run and for the most part they are able to line up and they can just communicate amongst themselves and get the job done without having to come off the field,” the Panthers coach said. “We trust them to make decisions. They are all smart kids who want to be successful.”
The communication during the game, from play to play, does not end with just the linemen. Miles pointed out they do a great job of relaying the message to the guys who are running behind them as well.
“Jacob and Peyton and whoever else is there in the backfield has to understand what those guys up front are doing as well,” Miles explained. “And they do a great job of making sure those guys know where their blockers are going so they know where their path will be and how it will change with what they see.
“Just the progress they have made and knowing the different schemes and the communication with everyone has been a tremendous help with our backs being able to make better decisions.”
Miles noted aside from their knowledge of the game, the main factors in the linemen's success are the ways they bond with one another and how well they get along.
“Their friendship is what sets them apart,” Miles said. “They are all close and they hang out together outside of the football field and school. They joke around with one another and they legitimately care about one another. Their level of communication during the game is above where we have been in the past because they are such great friends off the field.”
The “hogs,” as they are referred to during games, don’t just open up holes for the Panthers running game. They also shut down opposing teams' rushing attacks.
Through nine games, the Panthers defense has allowed just over 120 yards per game and just over three yards per rush.
“They love playing defense too,” Miles said of his line. “They just love playing physical, playing downhill and they are really just committed to getting the job done. We are super excited about their progression and hope they can continue to improve the rest of the year.”
Palmyra opens up district play Friday night when it plays host to Clopton.