The attention is well deserved after winning 28

By Brian King Record-Courier staff writer Published:

The attention is well deserved after winning 28 of their last 29 games. However, there's one group of Wildcats whose names haven't been thrown around quite as much.

That unit is the interior linemen.

The unsung heroes, the interior linemen seldom receive any credit outside of that heard from coaches and the skilled position players.

The life of an interior lineman is seldom pretty, as the largest players on the field are forced into close quarters combat on a play-by-play basis with the biggest, nastiest players the opposition has to offer. For the men of the "trenches," this is the only way to live.

"Coach (Scott) Pollock always tells us if they are not yelling at us then that means we did our job," said junior defensive tackle Chris Bowen. "It gets pretty rough inside sometimes. You just have to get tough, get mean."

The job of an offensive linemen is multi-faceted. First and foremost, the offensive line sets the protection for the quarterback. The quarterback is the field general, commanding the offense, but without protection up front he can do little. Mogadore quarterback Charley Molnar has had plenty of protection, a fact that is important to his offensive linemen.

"Our most important job is protecting the quarterback," said senior left guard and co-captain Nate Hinton. "Charley has only been sacked one time this season and I take a lot of pride in that."

The offensive line is not just essential to the passing game, it's the backbone of the rushing attack. The initial surge by the guys up front sets the tone for each running play and the holes created by their blocks spring the spectacular runs that light up the scoreboard.

"Run blocking is like a one-on-one battle," said junior right tackle Sean Lucey. "You get a lot of contact which is fun, and when Tommy (Lee) or Jon (Raddish) break off a long run it feels good."

The offensive line is also very rooted in camaraderie. Working inches away from the guy next to you, an offensive lineman feeds off the success of his teammate. The bonds between linemen are thick and in the case of two Wildcats, a family matter. Sophomore left tackle Brian Williams and his brother, senior right guard and co-captain Nick Williams, relish the chance to play together.

"There are good points about playing with your brother and bad points, because it's easier for me to get upset with him," said Nick Williams. "It's easier to rely on him, though. I know what to expect from him every play."

Senior center Bobby Lee also has a family connection as he clears the way for his cousin Tommy Lee, a standout tailback. Tommy Lee was named as offensive player of the year on the All-Northeast Inland District team.

"It's a lot of fun to block for Tommy, I got to do it in youth league, too," said Bobby Lee. "It is kind of weird hearing people talk about him as an All-Ohio football star. To me, he is still just my cousin."

While the rewards for a job well done are not that great for an offensive lineman, the penalty for a mistake can be huge. A single mishap on pass protection or a missed block in the running game can destroy drives. This makes things tough for a new lineman like Brian Williams, who was thrust into the starting left tackle spot when a shoulder injury rendered senior Jason Belacic to the defensive line only.

"When I first had to start I was a little intimidated," said Williams. "I got real nervous, but then you get used to it. We (the linemen) are all pretty good friends."

Maybe the only job as thankless as that of an offensive linemen is that of a defensive tackle. The primary job of the two interior defenders is to occupy the guards and center of the opposition in order to free up your linebackers to make tackles. This kind of grunt work produces low tackle counts and very little glory for defensive tackles like Bowen and senior Kurt Friend.

"Coach (Jeff) Muncy always tells us when we do our job, we are two guys taking out three of theirs," said Bowen. "The linebackers give us a lot of credit, too."

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E-mail: bking@recordpub.net

Phone: (330) 678-5460

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