PCA lineman give Eagles experience, leadership on field

Published 9:39 am Monday, August 10, 2015

Porters Chapel Academy linemen Noah Nielsen, left, and Jacob Smithey, right, will provide both skill and leadership to the young Eagles this season.

Porters Chapel Academy linemen Noah Nielsen, left, and Jacob Smithey, right, will provide both skill and leadership to the young Eagles this season.

It’s hard to quantify the contributions of offensive linemen. If they do their jobs well, the quarterbacks and running backs tend to get the credit and the people up front blocking for them go unnoticed.

It’s an important job, but also a thankless one. And for Porters Chapel Academy’s Justin Smithey and Noah Nielsen, it’s one they’re happy to take on.

Smithey, the center, and right guard Nielsen are the only seniors on the 21-man roster. As two of the more experienced players on the team they’re being counted on to provide both a blocking push and vital leadership for the Eagles.

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“Some of the ninth- and 10th-graders have stepped up, which is good. For the most part, they listen to us. I like being able to have these guys look up to me, and I can lead them. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” Nielsen said. “They look up to us, and if we start slacking off they start slacking off. So me and Smithey really have to keep it going and make sure they’re doing their best and not halfway doing it.”

The role of team leader isn’t the only new one the PCA linemen are taking on. Smithey was a part-time starter at guard and tackle last season. He’ll play every down, as well as a new position, for the first time this year.

“He’s always kind of been a center. We’ve just had to move him around a little bit,” PCA coach Wayne Lynch said. “He’s going to be good at the center spot, being able to help call audibles and change the line’s responsibilities. He’s a smart guy.”

Nielsen previously played tackle, but will move to the interior of the line. Lynch said that was a designed move to take advantage of Nielsen’s athleticism.

Tackles Shelton Miller and McKinley Skipper are bigger players suited to play on the ends, Lynch said, while Nielsen and left guard Brayden Ray are nimbler and can pull better on running plays to the outside.

“McKinley and Shelton are both taller, bigger guys, and then Brayden and Noah are better at pulling and getting around the line,” Lynch said. “It’s a really good mix between the group, so we’re excited about that.”

While PCA’s line will be a key to any success it has this year, it’s just as clear that the legacy of Smithey and Nielsen will be seen a couple of years from now.

Sixteen of the 21 players on the roster are in grades 8-10, and the Eagles are coming off a 2-8 season. Most players and coaches acknowledge that, while they’re not sacrificing this season, the program’s best days seem to be ahead of it.

As they hone their leadership style, Smithey said that’s something he and Nielsen have tried to impart on their younger teammates.

“We’re trying to keep the guys from not getting mad or angry at each other, trying to keep them straight and on the right road they need to be on for this team,” Smithey said. “We don’t want them to think we’re getting on to them. We just want to make them better. We’re trying to make them a better team for the future.”

Nielsen smiles when asked about future success he won’t be around to see. He also makes it clear that the Eagles want to win now.

“We might not have that many returning starters, but with all of the younger guys coming up they want to play and do their best,” Nielsen said. “With that, I feel like we have a really good set-up right now.”


About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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