MOVING AS ONE: Monarchs’ O-line chemistry strengthens their success

The Monarchs have had a successful campaign so far, blazing a trail through the Central District en route to a 5-1 overall record and a 3-0 district record. Meadowbrook currently sits in first place, a game up on Dinwiddie and Matoaca. The Monarchs are poised for a run and look to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

“I’m proud of the way the guys have played this year,” said head coach Troy Taylor. “We have shown improvement, but we haven’t reached our peak yet.”

Much of Meadowbrook’s success has been attributed to their offense with a true dual threat quarterback in Gerard Johnson, a potent running game, and an excellent offensive line that’s regarded as one of the best that Meadowbrook has fielded in years. Johnson has gained close to 1,800 all-purpose yards, including 700 yards on the ground. Running back Brandon McShine has benefitted from the great play of the line as well, as he is on pace to rush for 1,000 yards this season.

That offensive line, manned by four seniors- Lavonte Hights, Temar Neal, Shaieek Turner and Caleb Wright and junior Cornelius “Too Tall” Tyler, has shown constant improvement since the beginning of the season and is one of the main reasons for the success the Monarchs have had this year.

“I’ve enjoyed watching these guys play together as a unit,” said Randy West, offensive line coach for Meadowbrook. “They are working hard to improve their run blocking to compliment their already strong pass blocking.”

Besides being a group of players that in some cases have played together since middle school, they are very much a group of friends off the field as well.

“We hang out a lot off the field,” said Caleb Wright, the team’s center.

“The other week we ate, played basketball and worked on our technique,” he continued. “Working hard outside of practice is something we need to do in order to be successful.”

That relationship on and off the field has led to a lot of fun, and a lot of jokes from Neal and Wright.

“Temar is probably the funniest guy on the team,” said Turner. “He’s so country, and his accent is just hilarious – he always has jokes.”

West also loves the fact that his line has gelled this season- on and off the field.

“I think that the guys hanging out off the field and doing things together is great for their chemistry – it’s one of the most important things for an offensive line to perform as a unit.”

Of the line, coach Randy West says that all five players are probable college players. The two most promising prospects are Hights, a senior, and Tyler, a junior. Hights, who plays right guard for the Monarchs, has received interest from North Carolina Central, Elon and UVA Wise.

“Hights is our most aggressive offensive lineman,” said West. “That’s a trait that any good lineman must have.”

While it is early in the recruiting game, Tyler has been contacted by Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia. Tyler didn’t play heavily on the line until this season, but has impressed recruiters.

“Too Tall (Tyler) hasn’t been really a main guy on the line for long,” said West. “He’s really stepped up and played well this season.”

Neal and Wright have been contacted by several

I-AA schools and West says that Turner figures to play somewhere other than offensive line on the collegiate level.

Last Friday, Meadowbrook crushed Prince George 35-0 and is looking forward to their last four games of the season. If they can continue their winning ways, it will be back to the playoffs for the Monarchs.

“I feel like this is the best team I’ve ever played on,” said Tyler. “From recreation ball, basketball – anything,” he continued. “Making the playoffs is a big goal of ours and we are ready to go.”

The Monarchs have road games at Petersburg and Thomas Dale before finishing at home against Colonial Heights and Matoaca.

“We can’t take any opponent for granted,” said Neal. “We have to respect every team and play the best we can so we can achieve our goal.”

Meadowbrook continues that quest to return to the playoffs Friday at 7 p.m. against Petersburg.

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