Log In

Reset Password

Lehighton plays host to Eastern PA Offensive Linemen Clinic

Football fans cheer the running back when he crosses the goal line. They stand and applaud the wide receiver after he catches a touchdown pass from the quarterback.

Those plays were successful because of five other players hardly recognized by the fans, but greatly appreciated by their coaches - the down and dirty army fighting for territorial advantage in the trenches.

They are the offensive linemen.

On Saturday, Lehighton High School hosted the Eastern PA Offensive Linemen Clinic that was attended by football players, coaches and clinicians. Players from 15 high schools from throughout the Lehigh Valley and central Pennsylvania - including area schools Lehighton, Palmerton, Jim Thorpe, Panther Valley, and Pleasant Valley - were on site. They were among the more than 80 lineman in attendance.

The event was the idea of Lehighton head football coach Tom McCarroll.

“This is a great opportunity for high school kids to learn from accomplished coaches who have been coaching at the college level,” he said. “There’s a ton of experience among the instructors here that can help these kids be better at what they do.”

Among the numerous college coaches who were on hand to conduct the clinic was former NCAA Division 1 coach Kevin Bolis - a now retired, 15-year veteran line coach who spent time at Iowa State and Colgate.

“We played football together at Colgate and became good friends through the years,” said McCarroll.

Also part of the instructional staff was someone extremely familiar with the area as former Lehighton football player and All-State offensive lineman Mike Cebrosky returned to his home town. Cebroksy was recently named head football coach at Kings College.

The clinic emphasized fundamental techniques for run and pass blocking. During warm ups, players concentrated on the importance of their lower body. They did 10-yard walking lunges, deep knee bends, single leg lifts, squats and duck walks before they were divided into groups and different coaches led them through drills.

“Every drill we do is progressive,” said Bolis. “The first leads into the second and so on.”

He said that the most important part of the body for blocking a defender is the eyes. “You have to be able to see who you are blocking before you make contact.”

Other drills focused on keeping the hips strong and not allowing a defender to turn the blocker way from the line of scrimmage. Hand placement was also essential. Hands are to be kept in tight to the body, and thumbs must be kept up when engaging a defender. Proper three-point and two-point stances were taught, along with a goal line four-point stance.

Tom Doddy - a Lehigh Valley native who has been coaching offensive lineman at the college level for over 40 years - told campers that the big advantage an offensive lineman has over a defender is knowing the snap count.

“You have to get off the ball from your stance to beat the defender, ” he said, “and your fingers must be tight inside the shoulders. Then you can elevate the defender which takes away his power base.”

Doddy also stressed the fundamental footwork utilized in zone blocking where two offensive linemen power step to block one defender so the running back can see a hole to run through. “Offense is always in the attack mode,” he said.

Coach Bolis added that mistakes made during the game will happen. “It’s how you correct your mistakes that makes you a good football player.”

McCarroll said that despite all the schemes and formations teams will run, the game of football always comes down to the small details.

“Ever since the game was invented, football comes down to blocking and tackling,” he said.

The student/athletes on hand Saturday working to improve their craft weren’t doing it because they have dreams of future recognition like their teammates who play the so-called ‘skill positions’.

There may be no other sport where a unit of players so vital to helping their team score points and win games isn’t acknowledged by the roar of the crowd.

“Linemen get very little credit from the average fan,” said McCarroll, “They usually aren’t talked about unless they are getting called for a penalty.

“But even if most fans don’t appriciate their importance, their teammates and coaches certainly do.”

At the clinic were high school players of all different sizes working to be the best they can be.

As the late coach John Madden said, “It’s not how big you are. It’s how big you play.”

After Saturday’s clinic, every player who attended has added more details to his skill set so he can play “big” next fall.

Linemen take proper three-point stances during the Eastern PA Offensive Lineman Clinic on Saturday at Lehighton High School. Over 80 linemen from 15 different high schools were on hand. RICH STRACK/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS