MANCHESTER – Many football coaches will say that games are won and lost at the line of scrimmage.
And Manchester believes they have a player who can help command their offensive line this season in Jacob Calvert.
“He’s one of the key pieces in our offensive line,” said Manchester coach Dustin Cook. “This will be his fourth year starting on the offensive line. Having someone like that with the experience and work ethic and attitude that he has is a huge help.”
As one of the more experienced players, if not the most experienced player, on the Greyhounds’ roster, Calvert is looking to lead a small group of around 22 players this fall. He plans on using what he’s learned the last few years to help some of the younger players in the program.
“It’s been a great experience,” said Calvert. “It kind of helps showing a kid that’s started that some other kids can look up to them and hopefully I can help them start and help other things like that.”
He’ll have a few other seniors beside him with Wes Jones, who’s a three-year starter, according to Cook, as well as Kris Walters and Wyatt Baldwin. The team’s lineman also include junior Carl Ricketts, sophomores Patrick King, Aaron Fanning and Aaron Rowland and freshmen Terry Fletcher, Rylan Baily, Dawson Stevens and Lucas Ballenger.
“We’re tight, just like last year,” said Calvert. “We were probably closer as a team than the years before and this year we’re just the same. We’re pretty tight. We all work hard and work together.”
Solid play from those guys up front will be crucial for the Greyhounds’ run-heavy option offense that led to an average of nearly 22 points per game. They put up over 40 points on three occasions last season.
“In the trenches, we feel very confident that we have guys that have been there and guys we’ve asked to do a lot in the past and now that they’re in leadership roles as seniors, that has really helped our growth as a team with the young guys and the inexperienced guys,” said Cook.
Shaun Gould took over at quarterback and will return for his senior season this year. Calvert feels confident that a similar offense can continue to yield successful results as Manchester rolls into this fall.
“It was great. It just clicked,” said Calvert. “We started more of an option offense. It just worked well with the kids we had and it’ll really work well this year too. It’s the way that we’re doing everything.”
Outside of Gould, the Greyhounds will have several new skill players getting touches this fall, as they graduated players like Mason Bilyeu, Nick Woolard, Marcus Neeley and Luke Thompson.
Cook is optimistic that rising seniors like Brady Flack, Nathan Rife and Avery Reed can fill those shoes, and Calvert is comfortable with his classmates taking on larger roles.
“I’m confident with what we have,” said Calvert. “Yeah, we lost some people and we’re probably not going to get the exact same, but we got some people that can pick up where they left off and hopefully do as well.”
In addition to leading the offensive line, Calvert will be anchoring a defense that surrendered an average of only 12.5 points in four victories last season
“He’s in the middle of our defense, played middle linebacker for us last year. He was around 100 tackles, so he was the heart and soul of the defense in the middle there and he’ll be returning,” said Cook.
Beside Calvert at linebacker will be Reed. The Greyhounds also bring back the majority of their defensive line from last year’s team, according to Cook.
“Really, our front seven is kind of intact from where it was last year. We definitely have some losses – key seniors that departed that we’re hoping that, with everybody else that is in there, that we can fill those voids,” said Cook. “I thought defensively we played extremely well outside of a game or two. I thought we did a great job of tackling, so hopefully we can put those guys in those positions again and hopefully be equally as successful, if not more.”
Using all of the experience he’s gotten over the last few years, Calvert’s been working during the summer and into preseason to help some of the less-experienced players get ready for the opening kickoff at Fayetteville-Perry on Aug. 24 – no matter what that entails.
“To this point, the main point is to do the best we can and get stronger, get bigger, get faster and basically to just help the team out and do anything I can,” said Calvert. “Anything the coaches and players ask to do.”