CHESHIRE -- Every play on the football field starts with the center. A successful center can go a long way toward making the team successful.
The Hoosac Valley football team pegged senior Zach O’Neill to be its center when the season started. He brought leadership and experience to the position. Then he was gone. O’Neill went down with a shoulder injury in Week 2 against St. Joseph’s while making a defensive play. He hasn’t been in the lineup since and isn’t expected back soon.
Sophomore Austin Milesi was tabbed to take over. Prior to this season, he had zero experience playing center and very little experience on the offensive line.
"I started playing the line this year, just in practice and such," Milesi said. "That helped with knowing where to go."
He seemed to make the transition flawlessly and now has two games of experience to draw on heading into Week 4 against Mount Greylock.
"I kind of put it in the back of my head that he was even out there, but the more I think about it, the more surprised I am [with how well he has played]," coach Dayne Poirot said. "He had a few snaps in the preseason and he kind of stepped right in there. He did pretty well then and he is learning now."
Getting your first varsity snaps at a position you’ve rarely played could be overwhelming, but an experienced group of offensive linemen have helped ease the transition for their sophomore
"They have all helped a lot," Milesi said. "It’s a lot of responsibility, but they’re helping me."
He took every offensive snap against St. Joseph’s in Week 2 and against Monument Mountain in Week 3. With the sophomore leading the way, his team gained 328 yards on the ground in those two games.
The Mounties’ defensive line will be the toughest test for the sophomore. He handled the pressure pretty well against the Crusaders and isn’t thinking about his next opponent, but rather just playing the game.
"I don’t know, in those moments you just do what you need to do," Milesi said. "You just go out there and try to do the best you can and hopefully help the team."
He had seen a little experience on the varsity field as a defensive player and through playing fullback and tight end learned the responsibilities of blocking, but it’s still a work in progress for the young Hurricane.
"He’s a good athlete and he’s learning things really quick," Poirot said. "At tight end and fullback, you have to do a lot of similar things, so he’s doing the best to take that and learn what he needs to do.
"All you can ever expect out of him is to do his best and improve. He’s a kid who is always trying to do the right thing on the field and that’s really how he found his way out there."
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On Twitter: @NAT_DigitalSam.