A few seconds is all that is needed to list the linemen suiting up for Grand Island Senior High this fall who possess varsity playing experience.

Alex Rodriguez.

There. That’s it.

Rodriguez – a 5-foot-9, 245-pound senior guard/defensive end – will be surrounded by a plethora of new faces when the Islanders kick off their season Friday at Kearney.

Islanders head coach Jeff Tomlin compared figuring things out on the lines during preseason practices to putting together the pieces of a puzzle correctly.

“With us being so senior-dominated up front and so experienced (last year), naturally those are the spots we’re putting the most emphasis on,” he said. “Those kids are all working hard. Their effort is great. They’re all in and doing extra things. It’ll come.”

Some of the players from the more experienced position groups like what they are seeing from the new-look lines.

“We’re making great strides,” said senior Ace McKinnis, a returning starter at cornerback who will also be a receiver. “We’re just bringing our energy every day and getting better. The line has kind of been the question mark going into the year as well, and they’re really working hard and perfecting their technique and maximizing their potential. So we’re feeling good.”

Having a large turnover in starters isn’t a new thing for a Class A program. This year, the Islanders return four starters on offense and five on defense from last year’s 10-3 state runner-up squad.

“It’s an every-year thing where you have new kids coming in and underclassmen moving up,” said senior Kyle Sextro, a returning starter at receiver who also is a linebacker. “This year we have a newer line, but I’m fully confident that they’ll be ready to go.”

The focus for the linemen is the same as the focus for the entire team as a whole – make progress every single day.

“We’re making progress. I feel like we’re getting better every day,” Tomlin said. “Players are gaining skill every day and they’re gaining confidence every day, which is an important thing. We like how we’re progressing. We know it’s not where we have to be yet, but I’m encouraged by the progress.”

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