To find out just how important Robbie Guinn is to Louisa County’s 2017 run to the Class 4 state championship game, you don’t have talk to Robbie Guinn. For one, Guinn’s effort on every play speaks for itself.
Secondly, you don’t need to talk to Guinn because you can just mention his name to someone, anyone who plays or coaches for the Lions. They’ll tell you all about about the state finalists’ rugged, 5-foot-8, 196-pound junior nose guard.
“He’s like a little bulldog, he’s small but he never quits. He’s always willing to stick his nose in there and do whatever,” said Jefferson District defensive player of the year Tony Thurston. “He doesn’t get a lot of fame and glory, but he’s happy to do his job every single time.”
Guinn is a two-way lineman for the Lions, a strongside guard on offense and the nose guard in the Lions’ three-man front in the 3-5-3 on defense. During the regular season, the Lions ran 80 percent of their run plays behind Guinn on offense, showing a lot of confidence in the first-year starter who replaced the graduated Matthew Kersey and joined a line that included Thurston, one of the best linemen in Louisa history and Dustin Matney, a versatile, road-grading pulling guard. Guinn has been reliable from the start, working with Thurston, Matney, Collin Carpenter and Logan Yancey to form one of the state’s finest offensive lines, a group that’s cleared the way for 4,769 rushing yards through 14 games. That’s more than 340 yards per outing.
“He’s dirty, he’s sweaty, he’s just an in the mud grunt, my favorite kind of guy,” said Louisa head coach Mark Fischer. “I love him to death, he’s huge for us.”
When he’s not clearing the way on offense, he steps into the critical nose guard role. In most any three-man front, a more classic 3-4 or the Lions’ usual 3-5-3 look, the nose guard isn’t trying to knife in and disrupt, he’s trying to hold up blocks, fill gaps and force the ground attack to go a certain way depending on the gameplan. He’s also got to be capable of shedding a blocker (or two, more often than not) and make a play once the running back reaches the line or a quarterback takes off. It’s flat out yeoman’s work, but someone has to do it or linebackers like star Brandon Smith can’t get loose to make plays.
“We always have to work together and it means a lot to have a nose guard who goes 100 percent, all out every single play,” said Smith, who often occupies the middle of the formation just a couple of yards behind Guinn. “He just has that motor that he can keep on going and going and going. It really means a lot to me, and, depending on the play call, all the other linebackers as well.”
Despite the nose guard’s focus on occupying blockers and monitoring gaps, Guinn managed seven tackles for a loss and 28 solo stops during the regular season en route to earning second team All-Jefferson District honors.
There’s a common thread to both major roles that Guinn plays for the Lions. In each spot, he’s clearing the way for someone else to pile up the stats. On offense, it’s for Malik Bell, Job Whalen and Raquan Jones to accumulate rushing yards. On defense, it’s to keep linebackers like Whalen, Smith and Jones as well as the defensive ends, McGhee and Thurston, freed up to make plays.
If you’re going to advance to the state championship game, you need stars. You need players who garner accolades, who attract the attention of tons of college coaches, who pile up some serious numbers.
But you also need rock solid players you don’t hear much from. Players who just do their job and keep pushing your squad forward every single week.
“He’s an ankle-biter and all he does it just get after it,” Fischer said. “He’s super intelligent and he’s just got that aggressive nature to him, he’s a pitbull.”
Guinn doesn’t need to talk about what he does. He’s too busy grinding. He’s too busy pushing Louisa ahead one more notch, toward that ultimate team goal, a goal he’s been locked in on since the Lions first stepped on the field this season. Back in week one, Guinn was already looking down the road, looking to keep the Lions on track.
“We don’t want to stop at districts,” Guinn said after the opener against Courtland back in August. “We want to go to states this year. It’s Coach Fischer’s last year and we’ve got to make the most of it.”
Saturday, Guinn and the Lions will get their chance when they face Salem at 5:30 in Williamsburg with the Class 4 state title on the line.
Odds are good that, like it has all year, his play will speak for itself.