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VIDEO: Five high school linemen will compete in Lineman Challenge

Excitement and anticipation rings in the voices of Halifax County High School linemen Jairus Marable, Darius Younger, Casey Abedeljalil, Nelson Pringle and R.J. Scott.

The five Halifax County High School linemen, joined by Bluestone High School lineman Ovon Bullock, will accompany Halifax County High School Assistant Football Coach Corey Jackson to Cleveland, OH Monday for a three-day trip to compete in the HSPD (High School Player Development) Lineman Challenge, which begins Monday. 

This year, for the second year in a row, Halifax County High School hosted a football camp under the auspices of the NFL High School Player Development program presented by the National Guard. Participation in the program opened the door of opportunity for Comets linemen to earn the opportunity to compete in the national HSPD Lineman Challenge. 

In its first year, the HSPD Lineman Challenge features competitions between players in critical linemen skills such as quickness, redirection, body control and balance, strength, and power and explosion. Winners are determined by best times and most repetitions in the various skills competitions.

For the Comets players, the opportunity to compete in a national competition brings a great deal of excitement.

“I’m extremely excited because I’ve never done anything like this or been chosen for anything like this,” remarked Younger, a Comets senior. 

“This tops the list. I’m just hoping and praying I can catch somebody’s eye.”

Marable, like Younger, sees the lineman competition as an exciting opportunity.

“I’m very excited because I haven’t done anything like this before,” Marable noted, “and there will be a lot of people there.”

“It’s going to be a very big experience for me,” chimed in Pringle, “one I will enjoy very much.

Jackson, who had an outstanding football career at the University of Richmond before joining the Comets football staff last year as an assistant coach, is excited about the opportunity as well.

“Ever since we brought the NFL High School Player Development Camp here to Halifax County High School last year, the guys were real excited about it,” Jackson pointed out.

“When Coach Roark (Halifax County High School Head Football Coach Mike Roark) told me about the opportunity to go to Cleveland to compete, I was excited and the guys were excited too.” 

Preparing for the HSPD Lineman Challenge has not been a piece of cake. In fact, it has meant a lot of hard work for Jackson and the Comets players.

“We’ve been doing things that were unfamiliar to them,” Jackson explained.

“For example, one of the drills we will run in Cleveland is the “L” drill, a drill players run in the NFL combine. You run five yards up, five yards back, and go around the cones to make an L-shape. They will run the shuttle drill, and we’ve been working on their explosion (off of the line). The things we’re doing are not just getting them ready for the competition and camp, it’s also getting them ready for the season.

“If nothing else,” Jackson continued, “they will end up better players. That’s the whole point of this. Every day, every rep, and every second, we want to get better.”

Marable pointed out that all of them have been putting in extra work to prepare themselves.

“Coach Jackson has been putting us through a lot of things to get us ready for this, to keep us in shape and keep our strength up,” Marable noted.

“We’ve been working on this real strong for about two months.”

“It’s been very intense,” Younger added.

“Coach Jackson doesn’t play around about any of this.” 

Pringle concurred that the preparation for the competition has been serious business.

“All I can say is it’s hard,” Pringle said of the preparation.

“It’s been pretty hard, but this is going to help me a whole lot getting ready for the (high school) season. I feel like I’m a lot better prepared for this season. Last summer I wasn’t that good, but I’m making an accomplishment this year.”

Like everybody that participates in a competition, the Comets players want to do well.

“This is a big opportunity and I’ve put a lot of time into this,” noted Abedeljalil, a Comets senior.

“I just want to do the best I can.”

Scott, a sophomore, added, “this is fun, but it’s also serious. I just want to do as well as I can. With everything that we’ve done, I think it will give me the extra edge I need to be successful during the season.”

While prospect of competing against some of the best high school linemen in the country is a daunting task, Jackson said he doesn’t want the Comets players to be overwhelmed.

“One thing I preach to the guys is that I don’t care how big the challenge is, you should never be scared because even if the challenge seems to be too big for you, you always end up better for it,” he explained.

“It’s like (former University of Richmond coach) Mike London used to say, ‘run towards the roar.’”