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Trojans Have Regrouped, Now Stand Alone in First Place


By Earl Vaughan Jr.

It’s been eight weeks since Pine Forest’s football team suffered its only loss of the season, a 21-7 defeat to undefeated Seventy-First.

Ty’anthony is cq.
Seated, L-R. J.T. Hill, Justin Montalvo, Tae Bell.
Standing, L-R, Omarion Knox, Carter Richards, Ty’anthony Locklear, Johnathan Berry.

But like that famous watch ad of years back, the Trojans took a licking and kept on ticking, though it required a few adjustments.

One of the biggest reasons the Trojans have tacked on six wins since that defeat was a retooling of the offensive line.

When the Trojans took on Seventy-First, Coach Bill Sochovka tried to match up with the Falcons’ size and physicality. That plan didn’t work well since the Pine Forest line is a bit undersized this season.

So Sochovka tried an alternate approach.

“We just had to be able to move them to the point our guys could make plays,’’ he said. “Sometimes you don’t have to push them five yards down the field. With some teams, our scheme is just to make a gap for our running backs and make time for (quarterback) Keyshun Taylor.’’

Members of the line include guard J.T. Hill, center Justin Montalvo, guard Tae Bell, guard and center Omarion Knox, tackle Carter Richards, tackle Ty’anthony Locklear and tackle Johnathan Berry.

Bell is a returning starter who Sochovka describes as both a great player and a quiet leader.

Berry came out for football as just something to do but has developed a passion for the game that has been brought out by offensive line coach Sean Burnette.

Montalvo is the shortest guy on the team at 5-feet-8, but Sochovka describes him as tough as nails.

Richards is another returner from last year and is coming into his own at the tackle position. Hill is a true freshman who has great skills and is improving each week.

Locklear and Knox see actions as reserves and in spot situations.

“We realize we’re not necessarily a downhill team,’’ Sochovka said. “We’re a zone type team. We’re going to step sideways and create alleyways for the running backs. That was the big difference.’’

Bell, the leader of the line, took some time off from football after playing all his life but returned this spring for the COVID-abbreviated season.

“We made a big jump in terms of young guys stepping up,’’ he said of this year’s line. He said the coaches made it clear the play of the line is critical to the success of the entire offense. “That lit a light bulb in our heads,’’ he said. “Let’s go, every single game and practice.’’

It was two weeks after the loss to Seventy-First, when the Trojans traveled to Western Harnett, that Bell felt the team and the line turned a corner.

“We saw how we were able to gel and play off each other,’’ he said. “Ever since then we had a lot of confidence. As long as you keep doing your job, everything should go as planned.

“There is always room for improvement. We can always get better.’’

The Trojans are coming off one of their most important wins of the year, an All American Conference showdown with previously unbeaten Westover that left the Trojans 7-1 overall and 5-0 and alone in the first place in the league.

Pine Forest’s final two regular-season games are at Harnett Central and home to Overhills, a couple of middle of the pack conference teams.

Sochovka said the Trojans are anything but overconfident entering the final two games.

While the Westover win was satisfying, Sochovka said he was disappointed with his team’s play in the final quarter when the Wolverines rallied.

“We got very sloppy in the fourth quarter,’’ he said. “We were running our mouths.’’

Looking ahead to the games with Harnett Central and Overhills, Sochovka need only look back to a week ago when Pine Forest played Triton and fell behind by 21 points early before rallying for a 49-21 win.

“We don’t need that,’’ he said. He said both Harnett Central and Overhills are improving and finding ways to be successful. “We are in control of our destiny,’’ he said, adding he warned the team not to let anyone take that away from them.

Bell said the team is aware of what it faces. “If we lose, the blame is on us,’’ he said. “We have to play with the same level of class. Our trust in each other will keep us together.’’