Head coach Robert Ripley said that since he's been at the school, when Matanzas has out-rushed opponents, the Pirates are 20-2, and they're 1-9 when they get out-gained on the ground.
Matanzas football coach Robert Ripley summed it up best after the Pirates’ 35-14 loss to rival Flagler Palm Coast — a game in which stand out running back Trenton Steward scored the Pirates’ only offensive touchdown of the game on a 69-yard wheel route.
“Just imagine how good that kid is if we could block for him,” Ripley said of Steward. “He’s getting hit every play.”
Matanzas (0-1), which is coming off of a bye week, has playmakers on offense, no doubt. In addition to Steward, one player who comes to mind is two-way athlete Devin Mathews, who is committed to Navy as a wide receiver. However, to echo Ripley’s sentiments, it doesn’t matter how many playmakers are on your team if you can’t block for them.
The offensive line is a concern Ripley addressed during the off week, and he said he will continue to address it as the Pirates gear up for their matchup with Spruce Creek on Friday, Sept. 8.
“We worked. That’s all you can do right now,” Ripley said. “You gotta continue to practice. You gotta work on your skill set. You gotta work on execution. And, that’s what we’ve been doing.”
Against the Bulldogs in Week 1, first time starting quarterback Ryan Thomas spent most of the night either running for his life or picking himself up off the ground — FPC defensive end Nelson Paul was able to sack Thomas four times. Heading into the rest of the schedule, with dates with the likes of Seabreeze and Mainland on the horizon, I don’t think that’s something the Pirates can afford to happen to their young signal caller if they’re to make another run toward the postseason.
But before I continue, let me make this clear: The purpose of this column isn’t to call out anyone on Matanzas’ offensive line. After all, they're teenagers playing one of the toughest positions on the football field, and one you get very little recognition for. Ironic, considering how important the O-line is for the success of the team.
“It’s the worst position to play,” Ripley said. “It’s like going to dig ditches. It’s the hardest position on the football field.”
But, at least of the Pirates, it’s also the most important position.
Ripley said since he's been at the school, when Matanzas has out-rushed opponents, the Pirates are 20-2. However, when they've been out-gained on the ground, Matanzas is 1-9.
“It’s a position of necessity,” Ripley said. “It’s a tough job. It’s a tough job for the coach. It’s a tough job for the players.
“You’ve gotta have a competitive soul.”