Hold the line: Paintsville’s success starts at the line of scrimmage

Paintsville’s linemen posed together for a group photo Sunday at the Tigers’ Media Day event at the Field.

As football season approaches local high school teams are in full swing with practice and gearing up for their season opener.

Throughout the history of the sport playmakers such as the quarterback, running backs and wide receiver’s are the ones who get most of the credit in a team’s win. They are the ones who get the interviews and their names in the paper.

The one position on the field that never gets the credit they deserve and who is just as important as the quarterback or wide out are the linemen. Frequently referred to as “hogs,” they are the first line of defense to stop the football and also the defender of the quarterback and running back on the offensive side. If a team’s playbook is based more on running the football, good linemen are essential for pushing the defense off the line and opening holes for the running back to run through. If a team is more pass-oriented and offensive lineman is the only one who can protect his quarterback giving him enough time to look over his receivers and get the ball away before he is tackled by the defense.

Many football fans in the mountains will remember former-University of Kentucky quarterback Tim Couch. “The Deuce,” as he was known had a very talented offensive line during his playing days in Lexington. At the end of every game during his interviews he would mention his linemen before anything or anyone else. Couch was selected as the overall No. 1 pick in the 1999 NFL draft to the Cleveland Browns. Once in Cleveland, he soon realized he know longer had the protection of his offensive line at Kentucky. Some would argue, Couch’s line for the Wildcats was better than his new Browns teammates. He did not succeed in Cleveland, as he was usually on his back before he could throw the football. Couch knew the importance of having a good offensive line.

It is a vital part of football teams everywhere, especially high school football in the mountains. A lot of Eastern Kentucky football teams rely on running the football between the tackles.

The Paintsville Tigers are no different.

Their offensive and defensive lines helped the Tigers all the way to the Class A Region 3 finals last season.

Paintsville’s line on both sides of the football are possibly the most underrated in our area. The Tigers will return most of their line this season.

Gone are Ryan Goodman and Isiah Sexton due to graduation. Most of Paintsville’s big men up front also play on both sides of the football. Incoming senior Jaylyn Allen moved from linebacker to play on the defensive side last season. Allen will return to his middle linebacker spot this fall. Back to anchor the offensive line this season will be senior Dustin McKenzie and fellow senior Ryan Moore. Grant Ray will also be back for his senior season as well.They will also be the only losses to the front line at the end of the season.

The top returning “hogs” for the Tigers will  be Hunter Ousley, who, as a sophomore recorded 39 tackles. 30 of those being of the solo variety. This will be his junior campaign along with John Blackburn, who had two solo tackles last season, and Parker Hopson. Sophomore Matthew Davis is an offensive lineman, but recorded 18 solo tackles from his linebacker spot last season. Other sophomore lineman will be Aaron Baker who had three solo tackles last season. Jake Lewis, who, notched two solo tackles, Markus Hardin.

The Paintsville Tiger line on both sides of the football will be young but experienced. The offensive line will have to protect junior quarterback Jake Hyden if the Tigers are to have success scoring the football. The defensive line will have to clog holes and reach the backfield in order to shut teams down.

Paintsville traveled to Powell County this past weekend and will host the Somerset Briar Jumpers Friday night for a scrimmage at Memorial Field. Kickoff is slated for 6:30 p.m.

Paintsville is scheduled to open the season on the road Friday, August 23 at Class 3A Lawrence County at 7:30 p.m. The Tigers will follow by taking on Beechwood at Georgetown College Friday, August 30 at 7:30 p.m. That sets up a big Class A showdown with Class A rival Pikeville in the third game of the season. The Tigers will host the Panthers in their home opener.

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