BRISTOL - Jake Dauphinee likes to refer to himself as the “new guy.” While he is right on that, unlike last season, this year’s Bristol Eastern returns four starters on the offensive line.
With the plethora of talented athletes on offense, the fate of the 2017 team is on the shoulders of the five offensive linemen.
“We’re more comfortable playing with each other,” left guard Keegan Bartis said. “We trust each other. Last year we weren’t as much of a unit as we are this year.”
Last season’s record of 0-10 is representative of a young team that lacked experience. For this year’s group, the playing time last year was invaluable.
The four returning starters are Bartis, left tackle Andrew Consalvo, center Zach Giblin and right guard James Dauphinee.
“I really think they’re poised to be much better than they were last season, and with that success, it will hopefully lead to results in the win column,” head coach Anthony Julius said.
Because of the struggles on the line last season, getting consistency in that phase of the game has been a point of emphasis for the coaching staff this offseason.
“The offensive line is really the catalyst to your entire team,” Julius said. “If you can get a group of five to really jell together and mold themselves into one group your offense is going to click.”
The group spent a good amount of time together over the offseason in the weight room to improve their strength so they could line up and compete against teams that were considered stronger and faster off the line than them last season.
“Most of them put in a good amount of effort in the weight room to get themselves stronger,” Julius said. “Especially to make the run game much better.”
Establishing the run game is an emphasis for this year and with the added strength on the offensive line it could open up opportunities for the playmakers such as Ariza Kolloverja and Jaden Laprise. It will also give quarterback Justin Marshall time to make decisions in the pocket as to whether or not to throw the ball or use his speed to tuck it and run.
With Julius being a former offensive lineman, the line has the right guy teaching them.
“He really pushes us to get better as players,” Giblin said. “Because he knows the position and our full potential he pushes us every day so we can get better and better.”
He has specifically been impressed with Giblin and the work he’s put in to improve this offseason.
Consalvo will be the anchor for the line. Along with Consalvo, Bartis is the other senior in the group, and the two will look to lead the unit to a successful season.
“Everyone may look at us as underdogs,” Consalvo said. “At the end of the day we’re all family though and we’ve just gotten better and better and I expect us to shock the world this year.”
A physical E.O. Smith team, one that features defensive end and Temple commit Rondell Bothroyd, is the first opponent they will line up against.
“Our kids are going to have their hands full,” Julius said. “It’s definitely a good challenge for them in Week 1 to see where they’re at and see where all the hard work they’ve been putting in through the month of August is paying off.”