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Offensive line shows its mettle at West

Going into the season, the Davie football team’s chances for success hinged heavily on what happened on the offensive line.  The War Eagles knew they had skill players galore. But have you ever seen a good team with a bad offensive line? No, you haven’t.

Seniors Tanner Batten and Jared Simpson and sophomore Camden Beck were returning starters. Davie would have had five returning starters, but two transferred to West Forsyth over the summer, creating a shaky situation.

Even though the unit was lightly regarded in August, OL coach Jimmie Welch brought relentless positivity when he said during preseason: “I look at it as an opportunity for guys. It’s an opportunity for guys to show whether or not they’re going to be able to help us. I’m excited to see who steps up.”

When Davie suffered a maddening three-game losing streak at the end of the nonconference slate – all three were by three points – the setbacks were mostly defined by defensive lapses and penalties. The unheralded line has been up to the task all year.

A huge moment came Friday in Clemmons. Tate Carney, Nate Hampton and Josh Robinson rushed for 214 yards, Hampton threw for 304 yards, and the OL did not permit a single sack as Davie did the unthinkable and knocked off unbeaten West 37-34.

It’s time to salute the OL. Beck (6-1, 255) is a second-year starter at left tackle. Batten (6-2, 265) is a third-year starter at left guard. Simpson (6-2, 212) is a second-year starter who played right tackle in 2018 and took over at center in 2019. Senior Stuie Marshall (5-10, 210), who was a benchwarmer in 2018, is the starter at right guard. And sophomore Spencer Williams (6-5, 265), who played JV in 2018, is the man at right tackle.

Marshall said: “We worked throughout the summer. We knew the ones that were going to get to play had to step up, so we worked our butts off during the spring and summer.”

The unit has defied a lot of expectations from the outside. Davie is averaging 5.8 yards per rushing attempt. Hampton is completing 61 percent os his passes, averaging 266 passing yards and has tossed 19 TDs. Davie is averaging 454 yards of offense and 36 points (the record for points is 38.6 in 2006).

The OL backups are juniors Merritt Killian, Zymier Lewis, Ashton Williams and Robert Landry, who has missed seven games with an injury. Beck snaps on PATs/field goals. Senior Shane O’Brien is the long snapper for punts.

Carney: “They’ve done it all season. They picked up blitzes. They did everything they needed to do. They played amazing.”

Hampton: “They’re amazing.”

Head coach Tim Devericks: “Our offensive line worked their tails off. (West) brought a lot of pressure at times, they’ve got some pretty good defensive linemen and outside linebackers, and those guys did a phenomenal job.”

How did the boys in the trenches feel about it?

Beck: “We kept the tempo up, we pushed them and they couldn’t keep up.”

Williams: “It was the mindset. We had a mindset of we want to beat this team.”

Marshall: “We made sure we got the ‘backers because they were no joke. They had some good d-tackles (including 6-5, 320-pound Patrick Smith), so we had to work big time.”

Simpson: “We pushed it to another level as far as intensity and physicality. We really clicked. Coaches always tell us that it starts with us, and we played over and above what we could. I’m absolutely ecstatic that we gave up zero sacks. Seeing the stats and knowing we had a hand in it, I’m very proud of it.”

Beck said Welch can be gentle or tough.

“It really depends on the day,” he said. “One day he might be the nicest guy on the field. He’s going to sit back. Another day he might be in your face and get you fired up and ready to go. He can get us to turn that switch on.”

Williams: “I didn’t know a lot about football until I came to high school. I really owe a lot of that to (Welch), because now my understanding is so much higher. Obviously, his coaching style works because we were able to put up that kind of game against that magnitude of a team.”

Beck said it’s a tight-knit group.

“Outside of football, we eat together sometimes, we have a group chat and we try to talk and stay together all the time. It makes communication 10 times better. In that type of atmosphere (at West), communication is a big thing. If we don’t have that, who knows what it would have been like. Jared is the vocal leader. Tanner leads with action.”

One of the two transfers left a void at center. Welch decided to go with Simpson against Page on Aug. 24, and he hasn’t looked back.

Simpson: “It does come with a lot of responsibility, but it also comes with a great sense of pride. It does get scary and kind of gets in my head sometimes, but I like the switch (from RT) a lot.”

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Hampton and Jack Reynolds put up historic numbers against the Titans.

Hampton completed 30 passes. The old record was 27 by Chris Reynolds, who did it twice, and Josh Hall. Hampton showed some flashes in his first varsity season as a sophomore, but there was inconsistency. It didn’t help that he missed two games and most of another with injuries. But as a junior, his immense potential has turned into serious production.

Hampton: “You’ve got to look at those catches Jack was making and the catches the running backs had. I mean they made the plays for me. I’ve just got to put it in their vicinity.”

Reynolds might be 5-9, 160, but he’s tough as a cheap steak and has hands of glue. He made 15 catches to break the record for receptions in a game. (The old mark belonged to Ben Ellis, who had 12 in a 40-33 win over Mt. Tabor in 2015.) He compels defensive coordinators to say, “How do we stop this guy?”

Don’t forget that Za’Haree Maddox, Robinson and Evan Little had their share of clutch catches. “Nate was getting me open the whole night,” Reynolds said. “It was everybody. I can’t put all that on me.”

Notes: This was the sixth nailbiter finish in eight games. Davie is 3-3 in games decided by three points or less. … After missing four games with a left knee injury and subsequent surgery, Robinson returned just in time for the heart of the schedule. He contributed 41 rushing yards and 25 receiving yards. “It’s hard work and dedication to work at PT (physical therapy),” he said. “I was dying to get out here. I wanted to get out here and work my butt off.” … Every time Davie’s defense made a big play, it seemed like linebacker Gage Recktenwald was there. “To be a little underweight, to take the physical downhill run game that West Forsyth has and be able to stick it up in there, read his keys and get to where he needs to be, he played a phenomenal game,” Devericks said. Recktenwald said: “We studied film and everyone gave all-out effort.” … The Carneys will forever relish the memories of Friday/Saturday. Tate scored two TDs at West. One day later in Winston-Salem, brother Cade scored a go-ahead, fourth-quarter TD and Wake Forest later prevailed 22-20 over Florida St. to run its record to 6-1.