Two-way senior linemen give Lake Forest big edge

Kris Thompson (66), shown during last week’s game against Polytech, is one of several standout two-way lineman for Lake Forest. Delaware State News/Merc Clery

FELTON — It doesn’t matter who is lining up across from Kris Thompson, or what side of the ball he’s on.

Each one-on-one battle on the line of scrimmage is something the Lake Forest High senior looks forward to.

“It’s a new challenge every time,” Thompson said. “If I go out there on defense, I’m going against someone on the o-line. When I’m on the offense, I’m facing someone new on defense. I feel like that challenges me and makes me better.”

The Spartans, who have their home opener tonight at 7 p.m. against the Tatnall School, have a lot of players like Thompson on their line.

Lake Forest began the season with a 41-0 victory at Polytech last Thursday. The Spartans controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

And with so many seniors up front, that battle is one they want to win every game.

“We have a lot of kids that know what they’re doing,” said Lake Forest senior lineman Wade Brooks. “A lot of kids have been up here since their freshman or sophomore year. We’ve been doing this for a long time, been in the weight-room working out, trying hard and we’re good students. Just good all-around people.”

Brooks and Thompson both play both ways for Lake Forest. Another senior, Jayson Harris, also rotates in on offense and defense.

All totaled, the Spartans have six senior linemen in Brooks, Thompson, Harris, Byron Freeland, Nashiem Little and Riley Taylor. Lake Forest’s entire offensive line is made up of five senior starters.

Lake Forest coach Freddie Johnson said it’s not often the Spartans have that many seniors on the line. The last two times that has happened, Lake Forest reached the postseason.

“The last year was like 2010-2011 when we had a 2,000-yard rusher one year and a 1,600-yard rusher the next,” Johnson said. “I think in 2014 we also had a senior-led line. Typically when we have seniors on the line, it works out for us.”

“I really believe that, especially this year, it’s going to start up front for us. We have five seniors on the offensive line and four on the defensive line. They’re all strong, athletic kids. I think that’s going to make a difference for us this year.”

For Thompson and Brooks, the demand of being two-way linemen is something they embrace.

“I definitely welcome it,” Thompson said. “For one, we’re at practice every day. If it’s hot, we’re out here. When it gets colder, we’re out here. Coach makes it a point that we have to be conditioned to go past what we’ll do in a game. That way, when we’re in a game, it feels natural. Our bodies are conditioned to it.”

“It’s a little difficult but we work hard at practice for it,” Brooks said. “We run hard when we’re supposed to and we get on each other if someone is doing the wrong thing. We’re just a close-knit family,”

Since Lake Forest is in Division II, it’s in the same position most other teams are. Due to less players on the roster, the Spartans play linemen both ways out of necessity.

“Not too many teams are platooning so our guys have to be able to go both ways,” Johnson said. “We have some pretty strong kids that are able to do that. We’re trying to put the best 11 kids on the field. It would be nice to have two platoons for your offensive line and your defensive line but we got to get the best 11 on the field. Those kids know the expectation when they play and I’m sure it’s like this for every other small school in the state as well.”

While the defensive line was dominating Polytech’s offense on its way to a shutout, the offensive line was helping fullback Isaiah Johnson to a four-touchdown night last Thursday.

“Our backs are good, Isaiah can run for four touchdowns a game, (quarterback) Damian (Galindez) can scramble and get that extra 15 yards,” Thompson said. “When we get a push for them, we set a new line of scrimmage every time. If someone does get through and makes a tackle, it’s an accident and we push through it. I feel like most games we get like one or two accidents. As big and as strong as we are, we want to dominate.”

It was the first season-opening win for Lake Forest since 2014. The Spartans went 10-0 in the regular season that year.

They’re hoping to improve on last season’s 6-4 record.

“This team is focused, a lot more focused than we were last year,” Thompson said. “We respect each other a lot. I think everyone out here is looking for a championship, we’re not looking to be mediocre and go 6-4.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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