In football, the term often used to describe the quarterbacks, receivers and defensive backs is “skill players,” but if one thinks that means it doesn’t take skill to play on the line … well, think again.
Inside Lions Stadium on a fall Friday night, at least two skill players can be found lined up in the trenches for Sardis. Tristen Holcomb, a senior, plays right tackle and defensive end, and Trey Dalrymple, a junior, plays left guard and defensive end. They say playing on the line requires particular skills and then some.
“Being a lineman is just as complicated as being a ‘skill’ guy,” Dalrymple said. “You’ve got to hit low, you’ve got to use your hands, and take your steps – if you don’t take the right steps, you mess up a block. Then when you mess up a block, the quarterback gets killed.
“We don’t have but about a 5-yard area in which we play in and we’re blocking, but there’s a lot going on there,” he continued. “It’s like a fight. You’re always working to reset the line of scrimmage. It’s just a constant fight.”
Being in the middle of constant warfare, playing on the line is all about effort. Holcomb said it’s easy to want to take a play off, but pushing oneself on every play is the only way to find success.
“On the defensive line, you know most people would say, ‘Don’t worry about blocking the backside defensive end because he’s away from the ball – he’s not going to make the play,’” Holcomb said. “But, if you’re getting after it and you’re trying as hard as you can, you can make a play from the backside.”
Swapping blows on every snap is worth every ounce of pain, because that battle determines who wins and who loses.
“We work hard and Friday nights are our reward,” Dalrymple said. “We, as linemen, may not get a big write-up every game but we know that we’re responsible for the outcome of the game. You can’t win without an offensive line or defensive line.”
This season has been full of changes for the Lions, but the biggest of all would be the higher level of competition. Sardis is coming off one of its better seasons in school history one year ago. They finished 7-4 (5-1) and were crowned Class 4A Region 7 champions. But in 2018, instead of looking to repeat, they were bumped to 5A.
“I feel like teams are much faster to me but I like it’s just better competition,” Holcomb said. “And I like it because they’re more local teams. You know people from the teams so it means more to you when you beat somebody from 15 minutes down the road than it does from beating somebody in Huntsville.”
But, the re-classification didn’t cause the Lions to change. Dalrymple shared that the team just sticks to working on what they can control.
“We just do the same thing we always do,” Dalrymple said. “We don’t necessarily look at other teams. We just worry about ourselves and focus on getting better each practice. We’ll go over their plays but we don’t really talk about the other team a whole lot. It’s just another ball game.”
After high school, Holcomb said his eyes on the poultry business.
“You’re working under a company, but you’re really working for yourself,” Holcomb said. “I just want to work for myself. I’ve followed people around and you kind of just work a few hours a day and then you go enjoy life – doing things you want to do.”
He said he’d like to attend studying poultry science at Auburn University.
Only a junior, Dalrymple hasn’t given his academic future too much thought yet, but he said he would like to play football after high school. If that doesn’t happen, he sees himself majoring in something like accounting at Jacksonville State University.
“I like math,” Dalrymple said. “I’ve just always had a knack for it. It’s not hard for me to do so I figure if I’m going to do something, why not stick to what I’m good at.”