It was all Hylton senior Ara Der-Boghossian could do to keep himself from sticking his fingers in his ears and twirling them around to make sure he was hearing correctly.
The Bulldogs' offensive linemen, coached by fresh-out-of-college Jim Patrick, were going to change their technique this season. Why change the methods taught to them by popular assistant John Brown (now head coach at Freedom), the technique that had enabled them to win so many games for so many years?
"That's what I said," said Der-Boghossian, a first-team all-Cardinal District guard last season.
Hylton's most experienced offensive lineman soon bought into the idea of narrowing his stance and redistributing weight from his heels to his toes.
"Coach Patrick wants us to be real quick off the ball, because we're not that big," said the 5-foot-10, 240-pound Der-Boghossian. "We're just staying low, firing out real fast and getting into them. . . . Even on pass plays. We want to sell the run on every play. It all makes sense to me now."
It didn't hurt that Patrick, a second-team All-Met defensive lineman at Hayfield in 1999 and the son of Virginia High School League assistant director Bruce Patrick, was the starting center on the University of Rhode Island team that last year was second in the nation in rushing among the 121 schools in Division I-AA, with 333.8 yards per game.
If Patrick's philosophy made sense to Der-Boghossian, then it also must have passed muster with right tackle Tyrell Lynch, left guard Kevin Dessimoz and left tackle Robert VanHorne, the other offensive linemen who are back after starting last year.
All are listed below their 2003 playing weights, which has helped them adapt to their new technique.
"This fits in a little bit more with our philosophy on offense," third-year Hylton coach Lou Sorrentino said. "I've been real happy with the guys up front, and give the kids credit. Like it was when I first got here, they were very open to making a few changes or adjusting things instead of having a closed mind. I appreciate that from a coach's standpoint, and I think as a player, that's healthy, because I don't think there's any necessarily one right way."