SMITHFIELD — Almost every Smithfield High student has been given an
The device also helps with football preparation by easing players access to Hudl: the software program on which they can view their own and opposition highlights. The Packers' offensive line has produced its share of screen gems lately.
Smithfield center Ja'Quan "Boogie" Spratley displays a knockdown block in the Packers' 21-14 win over King George in the Region I Division 4 semifinals. It helped spring Trevon Batten for a 46-yard gain.
"I kind of blew him up, got the pancake," Spratley said, referring to his knock-down block on the screen.
Not to be outdone, right guard Kahvorkian Walton shows a clip of himself pancaking a King George lineman. The hit helped spring Kyon Croker's 24-yard run.
"I pulled, his eyes got big and I blew him up," Walton said.
The offensive line is indeed "blowing up," to loosely borrow street terminology for rising to prominence. Thing is, Coach Clark Harrell, whose Packers (10-1) host Courtland (8-4) on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. for the regional championship, is a little surprised by the rise.
"I thought our line might be our biggest weakness, but they've gotten better fundamentally," Harrell said. "They play with finesse and execution, pass-block better and the number of mistakes has gone way down.
"They've got a lot more football smarts now. At halftime, they'll say, 'Coach, we've got to trap a guy on this side or that side,' or 'Coach, we need to go zone and run it right at them.'"
Walton and Spratley are the vocal leaders of a unit that includes left guard Jordan Burke, left tackle Demetric Lewis and right tackle Collin Todd. Walton, at 260 pounds, is the only player on the line weighing more than 235 — painfully small even by Bay Rivers District standards.
At 5-foot-4, Spratley feels that opponents can be dismissive of him. Opposing coaches, who voted him second team all-district, are not.
"When you play, you're always going to look at the opponent and size them up," Spratley said. "But when it comes to intensity and the will to win, we kind of outwork them.
"You can tell from the first hit we make they're thinking 'I've got a challenge the rest of the game.'"
Walton said, "In the York game (Region I Defensive Player of the Year) Cody Hendrickson sized (Spratley) up and looked at him as if he could blow him up kind of easy.
"After a couple of plays you could tell he realized this ain't no slouch job. A lot of larger linemen in the district look at us like that, but we've got speed and communication down so our running backs can get to the edge."
The Packers are a spread team, so massive size isn't a prerequisite to playing on the line. Harrell prefers linemen who are athletic, can run and are technically sound.
"Blocking in the spread is more about quickness and getting to your man," Todd said.
Jordan added, "Trapping is best with Coach Harrell's style. Pulling, running and hitting somebody who can't see you brings sort of a happiness sometimes."
Walton said that Harrell's emphasis on fundamentals and game-planning, rather than hitting, during the week has the linemen eager to hit come game day. So those new iPads are filling up with individual highlights.
But chemistry is probably the biggest key to the unexpected success of the Packers offensive line.
"If I had to make the sacrifice to take that hit that would possibly end my career, I would do it for any one of these guys," Jordan said. "That's how much I love these guys as family."
Spratley responded, "Love you too bro."
COURTLAND (8-4) AT SMITHFIELD (10-1)
WHEN: 1:30 p.m.
WHERE: Smithfield High.
AT STAKE: Region I Division 4 championship and a spot in the AA Division 4 state semfinals.
Aug. 24: Massaponax;L, 15-26
Aug. 31: Riverbend;L, 9-25
Sept. 7: Louisa;W, 35-6
Sept. 21: King George;L, 10-21
Sept. 28: Chancellor;W, 8-7
Oct. 5: Culpeper;W, 43-0
Oct. 12: Caroline;W, 36-13
Oct. 26: Eastern View;W, 42-7
Nov. 2: Spotsylvania;W, 21-7
Nov. 9: Warhill;W, 21-7*
Nov. 16: Chancellor;W, 23-20*
Aug. 31: Southampton;W, 34-7
Sept. 7: Bruton;W, 12-0
Sept. 14: Jamestown;W, 28-18
Sept. 21: Lafayette;W, 34-27
Sept. 28: York.;W, 21-13
Oct. 5: Grafton;L, 7-20
Oct. 12: Poquoson;W, 20-0
Oct. 19: Warhill;W, 42-7
Oct. 26: New Kent;W, 47-6
Nov. 1: Tabb;W, 22-0
Nov. 17: King George;W, 21-14*