Trio lays it on line for T’hawks

MERRIMACK – So, you want to be a football lineman?

Just talk to the nucleus of the Merrimack High School line, both on offense and defense, and they’ll show you the ropes. Three mainstays are junior Eric Griffin, plus seniors Colin Keefe and Joey Peters.

“They’ve been pretty determined,” Merrimack coach Kip Jackson said. “Both our offensive and defensive lines want to really improve from where we were last year.”

“I think it takes a lot of work,” Peters said of being an offensive lineman. “You’re the punching bags for the team, you let yourself get hit. But at the end of the day, whether we’re there, or the skill kids are there, we can’t win a game without each other.”

Griffin is getting more and more experience all the time, and he stands out at 6-3, 235. Keefe probably has the most experience on both sides of the ball of the trio.

Griffin isn’t shy about what it takes to play in the trenches.

“It takes guts, you’ve got to be able to stick your face in another man’s and not back down,” Griffin said. “Sometimes it can get a bit much, but it’s something I thrive off of. Knowing if I make my block, and the backs do what they need to do, it will all

happen.”

Griffin got switched in eighth grade from tight end to line. “I’ve gotten to love it more than I do tight end,” Griffin said with a smile.

Keefe, meanwhile, is a little thinner – just six foot, 195 – but he’s got the quickness to move off the ball as a left tackle. Unlike Griffin or Peters, he’ll likely play linebacker on defense.

But he knows playing on the offensive line takes a certain breed.

“You just have to have the physical toughness,” Keefe said. “Other positions like corner and running back, you’re not constantly hitting every play. Every play on the O-line is constant contact. You just have to have the guts to keep pushing and be as physical as possible.”

“Our program doesn’t have a lot of large linemen,” Jackson said. “But Cole is the kind of kid who will do whatever it takes for our team to be successful.

“He’s a very good offensive lineman.”

Keefe likes the idea that as an offensive line goes, in many circumstances, so goes a team.

“That’s pretty much how it is,” he said. “Running backs and wide receivers, they get all the fame because they score all the touchdowns, but we put in a lot of work.

“Over the time of playing football, as they get stronger you’ve got to get stronger, keep yourself up, and become more physical than the guy in front of you. It’s constant battle.”

Keefe has been playing since the eighth grade, as he saw a lot of his friends playing. “The game of football is awesome,” he said, “but the people around it are 10 times better.”

Griffin echoed that. “I just wanted to be closer to my friends,” he said.

Meanwhile, Keefe mentally is able to able to make the transition easily from offense to defense. He played defensive end a couple of years ago on the Tomahawks’ playoff team and also has played other positions as well.

“It’s just hitting the guy with the ball,” he said. “On offense you have to protect the ball. You want to hit someone very hard.”

Peters, close to 5-11, 230, is used to that. You see, he’s also a boxer and MAA fighter, although he hasn’t had a bout in about a year. Still, that seems to be an almost perfect sidelight for a football player, especially a lineman.

“That prepared me a lot for when I got into football,” Peters said, saying he took up the fighting when he was a kid, “because I wanted to beat up my big brother.”

“In terms of playing football, he has a great deal of discipline, obviously,” Jackson said. “By being able to do the training that he does; he goes early morning and after practice and trains. It also helps him with both his hands and feet which he needs as an offensive and defensive lineman.”

Peters is over trying to extend the physical satisfaction that comes with the contact. Now as a senior lineman he focuses more on technique and “it’s more I want to play so I can do good for my teammates.”

“He’s a great kid, a mature kid, as he’s trying to get the most out of himself for his teammates,” Jackson said.

He knows what it takes for a good offensive line.

“It takes trust, it takes being able to cooperate,” he said, “and it takes just supporting each teammate.”

Peters may have a choice in a year as to what he wants to do in college.

“It’s going to come down to either college football or a professional fighter,” he said. “I’ve got some determination, that’s it.

“You have to trust the process, same as in football: Train, train, train, listen to your coach, and don’t talk back.”

Plus block, block, block and tackle, tackle, tackle.

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