Saturday morning's box scores might not highlight Garrett Graves' contributions.
Granted, Riverside's 6-foot-2, 225-pound nose tackle and center has 68 tackles, good for second on the squad. And since he moved to center in Week 3, the Eagles (5-3, 4-2) have won four of five games while averaging 28 points per contest entering Friday's regular-season finale at Westwood.
Playing along both the offensive and defensive lines isn't viewed as football's most glamorous responsibility. None of that matters to Graves.
“I feel like if I do my job, it really helps the linebackers and everyone fill,” he said. “Basically, what I worry about is my own job. I worry about myself and let everyone else do what they do.”
The most impressive element to Graves' game is his endurance. The only time he comes off the field is during kickoffs and kick returns. This is a player whose responsibility is to stop the opposition's biggest players on every play on both sides of the ball for 48 minutes.
“It hasn't been too bad,” Graves said. “After that first game, you kind of get used to it — playing both ways. Those first couple games were really long games.”
For Riverside coach Mitchell Rice, Graves isn't just a player who plugs up holes in the middle — he's a game-changer and a true asset for a coach. He knows every position's responsibility on the offensive and defensive lines, and his skill set is especially valuable.
“It's one of those things where a coach will make a comment, 'You're going to play who? Oh, man, their nose is really good or their center is really good,' ” Rice said. “I just look at them and say, 'I don't have to worry about that. I've got a kid that is second to none at his position. I don't have to worry about the middle of the field or telling him where he needs to go.' ”
Rice has high praise for his senior lineman's dedication. Once Rice took over as head coach in the fall of 2012, he and his staff asked Graves how he felt about moving from linebacker to nose tackle. Graves agreed to the move, knowing that it came with not only a new set of responsibilities but also the task of getting bigger and stronger.
Graves wasted no time picking up the schemes.
And he practically lives in the weight room.
“His motor is second to none,” Rice said. “It really breaks down to his technique. A lot of guys can clog a hole, but he's in here in the weight room lifting, working most morning before school. That speaks volumes to his technique because he is able to shed blockers and do some of the things someone who's a little undersized wouldn't be able to do without that kind of power.”
Ideally, Graves would like to see his playing days continue beyond high school.
But he knows there's still plenty left to his senior season. A win Friday clinches a playoff berth, and the Bulldogs have already assured themselves a winning record, something they didn't have when they last made the postseason in 2010.
“We haven't had a winning record,” Rice said. “We want to be able to do both and build on the foundation we've built with this program. We're not in (the playoffs) yet. There's still a slim margin where we could be out of the playoffs. You've got to go in with your hair on fire ready to rock and roll.”