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Roosevelt looks tough up front

Roosevelt quarterback Justin Terry looks to hand off

Roosevelt quarterback Justin Terry looks to hand off the ball against Babylon in the Long Island Class IV football championship at LaValle Stadium. (Dec. 1, 2012) (Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke)

Raymond Jones called Roosevelt’s offensive line the foundation of his team, and during Monday morning’s practice, the senior tight end discussed the importance of being able to win the game in the trenches.

"That’s how we look at it," said Jones, who has verbally committed to play at Stony Brook next season. "We have to have the mindset that we are going to dominate. If you go into the game with positive thoughts, good things will happen."

As the two-time defending Nassau Conference IV champs, Roosevelt’s experience on the offensive line is expected to be the difference in getting back to the Long Island Championship, which the Rough Riders have lost the past two seasons to Glenn (2011) and Babylon (2012).

Key starters are back, including Jones, whom Rough Riders coach Joe Vito called another offensive lineman due to his ability to be an excellent blocking tight end.

"If they say the game is won in the trenches, then we really like our chances," Vito said.

Roosevelt, the conference’s preseason No. 1 seed, will be handing the ball off to fullback Rob Hansen, who can’t wait to see center Sam Edouard (6-0, 245), offensive guard Kayshawn Malone (5-11, 205) and newcomer James Nuapah (6-2, 205) open up holes.

"I look forward to running full-steam ahead," Hansen said. "It’s like you get that treat for all your hard work blocking — 260 pounds is going to be hard to stop."

Hansen moves to the backfield after making an impact at guard last season. He will take the handoffs from junior quarterback Justin Terry, who threw for 353 yards and three touchdowns on 11 of 20 passing, while rushing for 101 yards on 19 carries and three touchdowns last season.

"Our O-line is going to do its best in upholding that level of expectation," Hansen said. "We’ve got to know every position on the line. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it."

Nuapah, a first-year starter at right tackle, is taking in as much information as he can and not taking any criticism to heart.

"We’re working together. I don’t get mad when they point out mistakes," Nuapah said. "They have experience and I learn from them to make myself better. We’re hustling to the line, getting it done on pulling plays and making sure our blocks are secure. We block to the whistle.”

Vito doesn’t let Roosevelt’s seeding bother him. He’s more focused on having his Rough Riders prepared for No. 2 West Hempstead and No. 3 Seaford, two formidable opponents within the conference.

"The seedings don’t mean anything until the playoffs, where anything can happen. We were the No. 3 seed last year going into the playoffs," Vito said. "We never take anybody for granted. We feel everyone’s next big game is against Roosevelt."

Johnnie Akins is aware of that. And as the senior running back who rushed for 2,292 yards on 251 carries with 25 touchdowns last year, Akins is making sure his teammates aren’t taking any breaks off in practice.

"We’re getting out there early and coming in running hard," said Akins. "A lot of hustle, hard work and dedication. Our goal is to make it back to the Long Island Championship game and finally put a roof on the house we’re building here."