It’s a cliché, but that’s probably because there’s a lot of truth to it.
Football games, it’s often said, are won in the trenches, meaning the team that controls the line of scrimmage oftentimes ends up winning the game.
That’s the mindset the LaGrange Grangers are taking into Friday’s showdown with Sandy Creek, the state’s top-ranked Class AAAA team.
LaGrange’s offensive line has undergone a few changes this season because of injuries, but the unit is coming off a strong performance in a 36-20 win over Fayette County.
LaGrange’s defensive line, meanwhile, has also been altered since the start of the season for various reasons, but the group did a nice job of getting into the Fayette County backfield last week.
Two men who’ll try to help LaGrange win the battle in the trenches are senior defensive lineman Devin Bolan, and senior offensive lineman Lew Hyers.
Hyers, a first-year starter at center, said controlling the line of scrimmage is “the number one priority.”
“We have to control the line, push them back,” Hyers added. “As long as they’re going backwards, we’re doing our job.”
As for the defense, Bolan said it’ll be important to set the tone early.
“If we come out early and we hit them in the mouth, it’ll kind of throw them off a little bit,” Bolan said.
On the offensive side of the ball, Hyers has been a rock on the offensive line since Day 1.
Hyers was a backup player last season, but he stepped into a starting role at the start of this year, and he has remained in the lineup since.
While Hyers didn’t get significant playing time until this year, he said everything he did the first three years prepared him for his role as a starter.
“It’s prepared me physically,” Hyers said. “It’s taken me a while to learn the plays. Once I learned them, I was ready. I’d been going on scout teams. Physically I was ready.”
Hyers, who is listed at 5-foot-9 and 200 pounds on the team’s roster, is oftentimes matched up against the opposing defense’s largest player.
“They always put the biggest guy in the middle,” Hyers said.
Hyers doesn’t shy away from that challenge, though.
“You can’t be intimidated,” he said. “You’ve got to be fearless. When that ball is snapped, it’s full steam ahead. I heard a quote. If you don’t know what to do, do something. Go low, go hard, and don’t hold back. It’s always a screw up just to stand still.”
While Hyers has been able to stay on the field this season, he said the line has “dealt with a lot of injuries.”
“We have a senior who rolls in a lot who is out with a hurt foot,” Hyers said. “We have a sophomore who is playing a lot, and he has a bad knee. He plays a major role. We like to run behind him a lot. But we always have people prepared to step up.”
When LaGrange takes the field Friday night, Hyers will be flanked by left guard Jack Ward, left tackle Kevin Ramirez, right guard Calvin Davenport, right tackle Luke Harris and tight end Guy Wegienka.
On defense, Bolan headed into the season with experience after moving into the lineup midway through the 2012 season.
That experience, Bolan said, “helped me realize that defense is about playing with attitude.”
“It’s more a mental thing than physical,” he added. “If you’ve got it mentally, you’re going to bring it physically. And playing with the guys we had last year, they would get you. They’d fly around. And going against the starting O-line since I was younger, that’s helped a lot getting prepared to play the teams we do.”
Bolan is joined up front by starters Emmanuel Mann, Desmond Harris and Dazmon Dunlap.
Jeffery Walker and Jalen Gates also play a lot on the defensive line, and linebacker Tae Glover also plays some up front.
Like a lot of positions on the team, the defensive line has lost players along the way, but Boland said that comes with the territory.
“We’ve lost a few guys, but it’s the next man up,” Bolan said. “You have to be ready to play.”
Bolan is confident the defensive players who will be on the field Friday night can get the job done.
“They’ve got great players, but we do, too,” Bolan said. “We’ve got great linebackers, our defensive line gets better each week. Our corners are getting a lot better. We’ve got to do the little things. We’ve got to bring it to them.”
Bolan said a key from a defensive standpoint Friday night will be making sure every player fulfills his assignment.
“I think we’ve seen the details make a big difference,” Bolan said. “Playing that kind of offense, if you have one guy out of position, it’ll mess you up. That’s what we most improved on (last week) was the little things.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story originally ran on Wednesday, but is re-running today because of an error in the original edition.