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Center of attention

Work ethic shows on field for Liberty senior

November 5, 2013
By MATT WAGNER - Tribune Chronicle (mwagner@tribtoday.com) , Underthelights

In the summer before his senior year, Liberty's Chance Purnell knew he was going to take over at center, but considering the Leopards use a lot of shotgun sets, Purnell needed to improve his snapping ability.

He came up with a simple solution to practice in his backyard: He took the 14-inch tire off a Chevrolet Cavalier and tried to send bull's-eyes through it from distance.

"During the summer, my snaps were terrible," Purnell said. "So, I would get a tire in my backyard and snap it. My brother would tell me if it didn't go through the center, it wasn't a good snap. So, I did that, and coach Kev (Kevin Cylar) telling me, 'You're the reason this offense will succeed.' That was my motivation."

Article Photos

Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Liberty center Chance Purnell (63) snaps the ball to quarterback Asim Pleas (2) during the Leopards’ game against Girard this season. Purnell is one of the anchors to an offensive line that has put up 331 yards of offense per game.

All that work paid off, as Purnell has been a major contributor to the Leopards' second-straight playoff appearance and a rematch with the Crestview Rebels on Saturday.

At 5-foot-9 and 200 pounds, Purnell is undersized for most linemen, but according to Cylar, Purnell has been the most consistent offensive lineman throughout the season for Liberty (7-3), putting himself into the right spots at the right times to be successful.

"He's a very undersized kid, yet he's always where he's supposed to be," Cylar said. "He's always there outleveraging, outhustling, outscrapping opponents."

Despite his size, Purnell has earned the respect of his fellow linemen.

Senior tackle Chayton Gilcher said Purnell commands that respect by employing a hard work ethic at all times and by pushing his teammates as far as he can so they can become better players.

"He's been around since I started playing my freshman year, and he's just been the hard worker every year, day in and day out," Gilcher said. "(He's) always making sure everyone is doing their assignments properly, pushing the other kids on the line, just trying to get them to move a lot quicker and work harder - just like him."

One area in which Purnell constantly pushes himself comes in preparation.

Purnell watches a lot of film beyond that which Cylar and his coaching staff show the Leopards during the week. He said he likes to analyze his own technique as a blocker, as well as learn to read how a play develops.

"I'm proud of Purnell for understanding what he needs to do to make himself the best player possible," Cylar said. "I'm excited that he'll take the time to make himself a better player because I've always talked about to these guys, 'If you come in and do exactly what I tell you to do, then you'll be a good player. If you go a little bit more on your own, that's how you become a great player.' "

He's so dedicated to becoming better at his craft that he even finds a way to mix his social life with his film sessions.

"I'll sit there and have my girlfriend over, and she'll watch it with me," Purnell said. "She's getting pretty good at figuring out what I mess up on, and she's like a coach to me."

With all of Purnell's hard work on and off the field, Cylar said he's become a fan of his senior center.

"He's been here from Day 1, done everything that we've asked him to do and he's been the most consistent guy on our line by far," Cylar said. "You got to love that. You get a kid who's a senior, hadn't played much football before this and comes becomes a leader of your line. You got to root for a kid like that."