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Meridian's offensive line does the dirty work

By By Tony Krausz / assistant sports editor
Sept. 17, 2003
Before the start of the season, Meridian High School offensive line coach Jack Wright handed out T-shirts to the linemen that read, "OL we do the dirty work."
In the Wildcats' 14-7 over Laurel last Friday, Meridian High's offensive front did enough dirty work for the team to gain over 300 yards on the ground.
Leggett along with Matt Deweese, Ken Mitts, Livio Cokrell, T.J. Harper and Marcus Boyd form the starting unit of football's unsung heroes on Meridian High's squad.
The six young men, who weigh a combined 1,432 pounds, will not show up in a box score. They will rarely score a touchdown, without a major gaffe happening somewhere during a play.
Instead, the group steps to the line of scrimmage every play to bang it out with the opposition's defense.
While the group may not get a lot of recognition during the course of a game or from the media after a contest, the Wildcats have come up with a way for the front line to get its props.
Wright grades each player on every play using a plus-minus system.
The linemen either earn a plus or a minus on each play, and the number of pluses and minuses is calculated on a 100-point scale. So if a lineman scored 40 pluses and 40 minuses on 80 plays, he would receive a 50 for the game.
The Wildcats' line also finds motivation in the center of the team's bulletin board that hangs in the entry way to the locker room.
In the jumble of inspirational sayings, a single 8X10 piece of paper is attached to the top of the board in the center.
On this sign, a picture of former Meridian High standout and current Tampa Bay Buccaneer Kenyatta Walker is in the middle of the following words If you don't invest very much, Then defeat doesn't hurt very much. And winning is not very exciting.
Words on T-shirts and a poster board are a good start to find what fuels the line of Meridian High's three-downs-and-a-cloud-of-dust offense, but they are hardly the end all for what makes the offensive front tick.
Thanks largely to the Wildcats' ground-based assault, the Meridian High linemen are a very active group.
Instead of standing back and forming a pocket for the quarterback to operate in, the offensive line is constantly on the move after the ball is hiked to create gaps and holes for the running backs to slip through for gains.
Leggett said the line also takes any hits the quarterback or running backs sustain in the back field as a personnel assault, and the group does everything it can to keep defenders away from those players.
Stanley said the work the linemen put in during the offseason in weight and conditioning sessions has helped the line keep the Wildcats' backfield relatively safe three games into the young season.
Unselfishness and hard work has powered Meridian High's hard-nosed offense, and in the end, Leggett and the rest of the line will keep smiling each time a teammate makes a big play. Because they know where it started, and so does the rest of the team.