SWAINSBORO, Ga. - They don't grab the headlines, make the front page of the Sunday paper or make the highlight reel on the 11 o'clock news.
But without them, there would be no 1,000-yard running backs, quarterbacks or receivers.
At Swainsboro, all-state hopeful Brandon Andrews wouldn't have topped 1,000 yards in his past three seasons without the offensive line. They might never get recognized, but the offensive linemen are a big reason why Swainsboro (12-1) is averaging 32.6 points per game this year.
The talented group leads the Tigers into the Class AAA state semifinals in the Georgia Dome at 3 p.m. Saturday against Washington County.
"It does get kind of frustrating when you pick up the newspaper and you read about Brandon Andrews breaking an 80-yard run," said junior right tackle Benjie Bell, a two-year starter for the Tigers.
"(Skill guys) get the recognition, but Brandon always tells us on the offensive line what a good job we do. He always gives us a lot of credit."
Friday night's state quarterfinal game against top-ranked Hart County might have been the offensive unit's best. It opened hole after hole and sprang block after block in Swainsboro's 48-20 drubbing of Hart County.
Senior right guard Ted Sconyers admitted he had his doubts when coaches shifted two players on the offensive front last week. Instead of Swainsboro running behind Sconyers, Bell and tight end Kyle Palmer on the right side, Tiger offensive coordinator Rusty Brown had a different idea.
He moved Bell from right to left tackle and pulled senior Jason Brown from his usual left tackle spot to right tackle. Instead of Swainsboro running to the traditional right side, the switch gave the Tigers more flexibility to run to both sides of the line on a consistent basis.
"I didn't think it was going to work at first," Sconyers said. "We didn't really have a good practice last Monday (before the Hart game), but we really stepped it up on Tuesday and Wednesday. I can't say enough about guys like Kyle Palmer, who dominated (Hart County all-state defensive end) Carlos Bates in the game.
"This group has really come together since the season started."
There were some questions entering the season about the offensive line. Palmer, Bell and Sconyers returned, but junior center Chris Flanders, Brown and junior left guard Jonathan Moses were first-time starters.
It took a few weeks for the players to build confidence in each other, but Palmer said the group came together quickly. He said the linemen don't care about personal statistics - they care about each other and helping the Tigers win football games.
"We had several guys who hadn't played," said Palmer, who also starts on the defensive line. "We didn't click so well to start with, but every game we got better and a lot closer."
As impressive as the offensive front has been for the Tigers, another solid pair has spent the season blocking at fullback - Cameron Brazzell and Kevin Pickett.
On Saturday, it's no secret this unit will have its hands full against a talented Washington County defense.
"I think we've improved 110 percent this year as a group," Palmer said. "All these guys never quit. They don't get much recognition, but they don't care. We take pride in opening up holes."
Reach Tim Morse at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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