(CEDAR HILL, TEXAS) As soon as the 2019 Cedar Hill Football Season ended, the questions arose immediately.
The Longhorns had a ton of potential at offensive line, but they were graduating one of the best O-linemen in program history.
Yes, Courtland Ford was heading for prime time Pac-12 Conference Football at the University of Southern California (USC). He now starts as a true freshman for the #15 nationally-ranked USC Trojans.
Cedar Hill had the unquestionable leadership of left guard Carlos Peoples, who committed to New Mexico State over the summer.
But there were four positions up in the air, and as anyone who knows anything about the O-Line, it’s all about teamwork, chemistry and cohesiveness. Players would compete, before the season, for those coveted spots.
Protecting QB Salter
The unit would have the very important task of protecting and opening holes for senior quarterback Kaidon Salter, a University of Tennessee commit – something that the O-lineman consider “an honor.”
“With Kaidon, it takes a lot of weight off our shoulders,” senior right guard Rigoberto Martinez said. “He can really do anything outside the pocket and extend the play, if necessary.”
Few questioned whether the Longhorns would make the postseason, something they had done in 14 of the past 16 seasons, but at Cedar Hill, just reaching the playoffs isn’t enough. That feat itself would be like Alabama bragging about SEC West banners.
When the starting lineup was announced, there was Peoples and four talented, but unproven fellow linemen. To complicate matters, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, they missed out on many opportunities to practice and build cohesiveness because of the cancellations of practices and preparation time.
It was up to Longhorns third-year offensive line coach Adam Shead, a Cedar Hill Class of 2010 Graduate who played left guard for the University of Oklahoma, to help five individuals become an unbreakable unit.
The quintet has come along way since the season opening victory on October 2 at Arlington. Cedar Hill enters the UIL Class 6A Area Playoffs at 2 p.m. Saturday vs. Tyler Legacy (6-5) at Mesquite Memorial Stadium at 8-1.
“The offensive line has become progressively better each week,” Cedar Hill head football coach Carlos Lynn said. “When they play well, we get good results offensively. Working is the only one way to get better. They practice hard and show attention to detail. They are very coachable.”
Senior Miquel Massey Jr. had the unenviable job of following Ford at left tackle. Massey had primarily been a basketball player, but he played varsity football for a private school in 2019. He knew he’d have to learn quickly to adjust to District 6A-11, one of the most competitive in Texas.
Martinez said he missed his junior season due to injury and didn’t play much as a sophomore.
Sophomore center Jayden Coker had to make the leap from the freshman team to varsity in a matter of months, while junior right tackle Josiah Jefferson had to do the same, albeit, a smaller leap (from Junior Varsity to Varsity).
Unlike some positions on the field, Shead said, you really don’t want to substitute offensive linemen in and out of a game, unless absolutely necessary.
“The offensive line is five guys working as one,” Shead said. “They know each other, they know how to do this block or that block, and where each others’ eyes are. When you rotate players in and out of the offensive line, it never works out well. We built trust and as soon as we did that, the offensive line started to gel. Once you have the kids’ trust, they’ll do everything you ask of them and do that at a high level.”
Shead said the O-line’s success on the field is a product of the hard work throughout the week and through film study.
“We’ve had trust with the big ‘US” in the middle of it, because it’s always about us,” Shead said. “We’re not all the way there, but we’re a lot better than we were at the beginning.”
Jefferson said the five offensive linemen have made a commitment to each other and the team to continuously work on their skills.
“We just kept learning and learning,” Jefferson said. “On the offensive line, you have to be coachable. I was originally playing guard and moved to tackle.”
The Aledo Game
The Longhorns opened the season with a 28-21 road victory at Arlington, which was ranked 25th in Class 6A at the time.
Allen canceled on the day of the home opener due to COVID-19, and the Longhorns were forced to schedule defending 5A-II State Champion Aledo (the #2 team in 5A-II this season) on short notice. Except it wouldn’t be a home opener.
Cedar Hill would travel to Aledo, on October 16. Leading up to the game, only two visiting opponents had won at Bearcat Stadium since 2007.
The offensive line played a key role throughout the Longhorns’ 27-17 non-district victory, which was Aledo’s only loss of the season.
“That game gave us a lot of confidence,” Shead said.
Some of the o-linemen considered the Aledo victory a turning point in the season.
The offensive line’s success came into the focus of every spectator at Bearcat Stadium when Massey caught his first career touchdown pass, in the first half.
Interestingly enough, Massey caught a touchdown in practice during the week leading up to the game. There was tongue-in-cheek chatter that he’d catch one in the game.
Massey was surprised as anyone when he actually did.
“I can’t even explain it,” Massey said. “I just saw the ball in the air, so I reached and grabbed it. It came off someone’s fingers. They tipped it and I caught it. I was excited that I got it, but it was unreal to me.”
Offensive Linemen Attributes
Shead refers to Peoples as the “cornerstone of the offensive line” and said Peoples is like a coach on the field.
“He understands the physicality of the game,” Shead said. “He finishes blocks and consistently plays hard on every single play.”
Each of his offensive line teammates consider Peoples to be the undisputed leader of the unit.
“He’s a great leader,” Jefferson said. “He teaches us everything we need to know. He boosts us when we’re down. He’s like the energy booster of the whole team.”
Shead appreciates Coker’s desire to learn as much as possible.
“He’s like a sponge, he loves to learn,” Shead said. “He wants to know more about the game of football itself. His snaps are always consistent, and I have confidence that he’ll do his job.”
Shead said Martinez, who is receiving interest from Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) football programs, may be the most improved member of the unit.
“He’s a guy who’s going to do his job,” Shead said. “His eyes are consistently in the right position, and he’s a physical guy, too.”
Shead said Jefferson is “one of the more athletic guys” on the o-line.
“We moved him from guard to tackle because his footwork is so good,” Shead said. “He’s really taken on that position and made it his own. He’s playing his best football right now.”
Shead said Massey, who is considering an offer from Southeastern Oklahoma, is “playing as good as anyone on our offensive line right now.”
“He had the most difficult task, coming into a new program,” Shead said. “Expectations were high, but he didn’t shy away.”
After this season, the Longhorns will graduate three offensive linemen in Peoples, Massey and Martinez.
But Shead is confident that Coker and Jefferson will share the lessons that they’ve learned with their new offensive line teammates in 2021.