It would be easy to overlook Oakland senior David Newman on the football field.
At 5-foot-7, 182 pounds, the Oakland senior fullback is often dwarfed on the field by both opponents and his teammates. However, his blocking role is a crucial one to the Patriots’ offensive success.
He is one of several among the three remaining Rutherford County football teams that serve the same purpose in different roles. They are unsung players that play key roles in the trenches, in the backfield and in the secondary.
Teams can’t win without them.
“They are guys that just want to play, and they enjoy playing,” said Eagleville coach Steve Carson, whose fourth-ranked Eagles (10-1) host fifth-ranked Adamsville (10-2) at 7 p.m. today. “They may not get a lot of praise in the paper or from the general fan watching the game.
“But without them we wouldn’t be 10-1.”
Fifth-ranked Blackman (10-2) plays second-ranked Oakland (12-0) at 7 p.m. today at Ray Hughes Stadium in a Class 6A state quarterfinal. Adamsville plays at Eagleville’s Talon Field in a Class 2A state quarterfinal.
Newman is normally used as a blocking back for running backs Fred Wade and Darryle Hood Jr. He rarely carries the ball himself.
But he relishes his role.
“Going into it, I was looking to be a linebacker entering my junior year,” said Newman. “Coach (Thomas) McDaniel pulled me in his offense and said, ‘We don’t have a fullback. We need one, and he needs to be a battering ram.'”
The position was perfect for Newman.
But he isn’t alone in staying out of the spotlight on Friday night.
Starting offensive linemen Jeff Benson, Te’juan Henderson and Trent Roediger are overlooked with college prospects Caleb Yates and Jack Jones also on the line. Oakland’s offensive line has paved the way for more than 3,000 rushing yards.
Linebacker Malek Holman is second on the team in tackles (77), but is overlooked with major college prospect Josh Smith and leading tackler Kevin Prather also playing at linebacker.
“I know playing behind Kevin and Josh, I just have to play up to the hype,” said Holman, who is in his first year as a starter.
Blackman also has its share of unsung heroes.
Linemen Jevon Shanklin, Caleb Singleton and Chris Finotti all start both ways. Shanklin leads the team in sacks (8).
“They have probably played more offensive and defensive reps combined than anyone else on our football team,” Blackman coach Philip Shadowens said.
Shanklin, who plays tight end on offense, is used primarily as an extra lineman.
“I just try to work as hard as I can all the time and do everything I can,” Shanklin said. “We get all the bruises. The cleaner (the quarterback and running backs) come out normally the better game they’ve had.
“We try to keep them on their feet as much as we can.”
At Eagleville, Thomas Carter at fullback, two-way lineman James Whitt and linebacker Waylon Sedtal all have had good seasons. Teammate Wes Vallance has been even better. He leads the team with five interceptions.
But all four have done so with little fanfare.
“All of those kids are big reasons for our success,” Carson said. “They’ve all gotten better and better.”