Lawrence Whittington, junior, started at center at West Henderson’s varsity football game Friday, September 7, playing for injured Cole Braswell, junior, in which the Falcons lost 6-31 to North Buncombe.
Whittington, who normally plays offensive guard or offensive tackle, received the news that he would be starting at center the morning of game day, which took him by surprise.
“I was kind of nervous,” Whittington said. “I did not practice center all week, but I reviewed all of the plays and realized my responsibilities.”
Whittington was told with such short notice because Braswell was in the passenger seat during a car accident that morning. Braswell and the driver were hospitalized after the accident.
Braswell suffered injuries to two of his ribs, and will be missing, at least, several weeks of the season. Head Coach Paul Whitaker said his utmost concern is Braswell’s health, not whether Braswell can play or not.
“We wanted to make sure he was alright,” Whitaker said. “The thing that coaches say is that there is ‘Faith, Family, and Football’ and it comes in that order. Football is the last thing in that order and we just wanted to make sure he was okay.”
Because of Braswell’s injury, Whittington did extra practice before the game started. He practiced snapping the ball in an effort to warm up.
Whittington said that he did not particularly enjoy playing center. However, he said he knew he would have to step up for his team, due to the importance of the center position.
“Center is a more important role than most on the football field,” Whittington said. “If I missnap the ball the whole play is messed up. It is a lot of responsibility compared to guard or tackle.”
The center position requires the player to snap the ball and block his assigned defender. Senior Josh Candler complimented Whittington on his performance of these tasks, as he said Whittington did a great job picking up the linebackers on blitzes.
Candler starts at right guard for the team, but he said he would also play wherever he was needed on the offensive line. He said that regardless of Whittington’s initial nerves about playing center, the offensive line would be there for him.
“On the [offensive] line, we are a big family,” Candler said. “We are always there for each other and picking each other up. We will tell each other when there is a good block, and we will tell each other when we have to step up, so we had his back.”
Whitaker said that Whittington had experience playing the center position at the JV level. He said that Whittington had also played center and guard last year, as well as center in the spring.
This prior experience contributed to Whittington being the starting center on Friday’s game. While Whittington had little preparation and notice for playing center, Whitaker said that he played alright.
“As a group we did well at times ,and other times we did not do as well as we thought we should have,” Whitaker said. “We have got some work to do this week, and get everybody back healthy and ready to go next week against T.C.”
By: Graham Grush