MORE THAN SIZE TO SUCCESS FOR PHILLIPSBURG'S LEONG
Zach Leong isn’t an effective offensive lineman for Phillipsburg’s football team because he’s huge.
Or because the Stateliner junior, who plays guard, is especially powerful.
At 6 feet and 200 pounds, Leong doesn’t cut the most imposing physical figure.
But that doesn’t matter.
“(Offensive line coach Mark) Bigelli says technique always beats size,” Leong said. “It doesn’t matter what size you are, if you have proper technique no one beats you. It works every time.”
It’s been working pretty well for Leong and his comrades on the Phillipsburg line so far this fall. As the Stateliners (4-2) prepare to travel to North Hunterdon (4-3) in a Mid-State 38 crossover game Friday (7 p.m.) Leong has become a key part of a unit that has allowed Phillipsburg’s trademark power ground game to be effective.
“Zach got on our radar last year with his toughness on the scout team,” Stateliner head coach Frank Duffy said. “We were anticipating him playing a big part on the offensive line this season and he has definitely done that. To play at his weight, Zach has to have great technique and toughness and he has a great first step. He beats defenders who are just there for being big.”
Leong, who said his main areas of technique focus are staying low and making sure his feet don’t get too close together and make his base less effective, and the line have been able to open holes for senior backs Garrett Boures (720 yards) and Ja’Quan Jones (321 yards) to carry most of the burden of moving the ball for Phillipsburg. This week the focus has been a little different.
“We have been working on focusing on our pass protection,” Leong said. “The last few weeks our pass protection has not been what it needed to be. We need to get our feet moving a little faster.”
Leong said he prefers pass blocking to run blocking because, even with the world’s best technique, it can be hard for Leong at 200 pounds to physically move 250-pound defensive tackles.
However, Leong has a lot of experience at doing so.
“I have been playing football since kindergarten and I have always played on the offensive line,” said Leong, who said in all the years of football he had scored one touchdown when he picked up a blocked punt and returned it for a score.
Remembering that play brought a smile to Leong’s face, but he’s perfectly happy at his line spot. He doesn’t need to be scoring touchdowns to love football.
“If we’re executing on the running plays our backs are grinding the opposition down and then they get tired so we can run all over them,” Leong said. “The way we look at it, the five of us offensive linemen work as one player. None of us get singled out, and it’s not about one guy or the other. I am very comfortable with that.”
What Leong isn’t comfortable with is his level of play. Asked if he had a play or sequence that had especially pleased him this fall, Leong said it didn’t work that way.
“Plays we do well on, Coach Duffy doesn’t want us focusing on those. That’s when you get complacent,” Leong said. “Coach always says we should strive to be perfect, even though we’ll never actually get there. Last week against Montgomery (a 14-6 P’burg victory) we were happy to win but we knew we could execute 10 times better than we did. We haven’t played to our full potential. If we can play to 100 percent of our potential I don’t think there is a team in the state that can stop us.”
Brad Wilson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @bradwsports. Find Lehigh Valley high school sports on Facebook.