‘Scrappy’ McDuffie ex­cels at cen­ter for Dutch Fork

The State - - Front Page - BY LOU BEZJAK lbez­[email protected]­tate.com

Jalen McDuffie doesn’t have the typ­i­cal size of an of­fen­sive line­man.

The Dutch Fork ros­ter lists the se­nior at 5-foot-8 and 210 pounds. McDuffie says he is closer to 190 pounds.

It’s not ex­actly the mea­sur­ables you would ex­pect of a player on the line of the topranked of­fense in the state. But ask head coach Tom Knotts who the Sil­ver Foxes’ most valu­able player up front is, and he doesn’t hes­i­tate.

“He is my most valu­able of­fen­sive line­man def­i­nitely and like a coach on the field. It just goes to show you if guys put their heart and soul into it,” Knotts said Tues­day after prac­tice. “You can’t tell it but he is a stud. He is thick, can bench well over 300 pounds. … Smaller guys, if they stick with it, they can do any­thing and this is a tes­ta­ment to it.”

McDuffie ad­mits play­ing on the of­fen­sive line wasn’t his first choice. He’d rather play line­backer and de­fen­sive line but was will­ing to give cen­ter a shot dur­ing the spring go­ing into his ju­nior sea­son.

“Cen­ter wasn’t my first po­si­tion to play but I know my team needed one. I just use tech­nique to get the job done,” McDuffie said.

He has been a two-year starter at cen­ter for the Sil­ver Foxes, who will go for their third straight Class 5A ti­tle at 7:30 p.m. Fri­day against T.L. Hanna at Wil­liams-Brice Sta­dium. Knotts had his doubts on whether McDuffie could play the po­si­tion and fill the void left by cen­ter Jonathan Holton, who was much big­ger at

6-foot-4, 292 pounds.

But of­fen­sive line coach Mar­lin Tay­lor was con­fi­dent in McDuffie, and his per­for­mance si­lenced Knotts’ con­cerns go­ing into spring prac­tice be­fore the 2017 sea­son.

McDuffie, who is nick­named “Scrappy,” earned the start­ing job and showed he wasn’t afraid to go against the big guys on the field.

“I re­ally didn’t see it at first. … I al­ways wanted a big­ger cen­ter. I played with smaller cen­ters in the past but he stuck it out,” Knotts said.

“Coach Tay­lor saw some­thing in him and his knowl­edge of the game. He knows the pro­tec­tions as good as I do and does a good job with it. You never have to worry about him.”

McDuffie, who also plays base­ball, is a twotime Re­gion 5-5A se­lec­tion but still faces his share of ridicule from op­pos­ing teams. Some de­fen­sive line­men laugh when gets ready to go into his stance at the be­gin­ning of the game, he said.

McDuffie re­mem­bered one op­pos­ing player called him ‘half of an of­fen­sive line­man.’

“I smiled and pan­caked him the next play,” McDuffie said.

McDuffie and the Sil­ver Foxes’ line will be tested against a T.L. Hanna de­fense that fea­tures fives­tar de­fen­sive line­man and South Carolina com­mit Zacch Pick­ens. But McDuffie is con­fi­dent his team­mates can get the job done.

McDuffie said he is try­ing to soak in the last few days of prac­tice at Dutch Fork.

He and the rest of the Dutch Fork se­niors took turns speak­ing to the team after prac­tice day, ex­press­ing what play­ing foot­ball for the Sil­ver Foxes has meant to him.

“Huge week for me. I have been work­ing for this ever since the sev­enth grade on C team,” McDuffie said.

“I am just will­ing to put my body on the line, leave ev­ery­thing on that field and give it my all.”

PHO­TOS BY TIM DO­MINICK tdo­[email protected]­tate.com

Dutch Fork cen­ter Jalen McDuffie and his fel­low of­fen­sive line­men prac­tice Tues­day for the Class 5A cham­pi­onship against T.L. Hanna.

Dutch Fork cen­ter Jalen McDuffie is 5-foot-8 and 190 pounds, which is small for an of­fen­sive line­man.

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