A successful rushing attack needs two things — a solid running back and a strong offensive line.
The Columbus East football team continues to have both of those.
The Olympians are averaging 51 points a game with 361 yards a game on the ground. A big reason top running back Jamon Hogan has reached the end zone 25 times is because of the effort of his offensive line. Those front five help initiate the ground game by getting a good push from the start of the play.
“Our entire offense is built solely from our offensive line,” senior right tackle Zach Clark said. “We can’t have a bad offensive line and run our offense. Everyone has to be good. Our game plan is always to dominate up front … we put a lot of stock in our offensive line here.”
Senior right guard Mark Sciutto said having a good run block is more than just shielding guys off. The goal is to get a good enough push on the defensive linemen to move them back five or 10 yards down the field.
Hogan’s 10 yards per carry help prove the line is doing a solid job of creating space for him. He said it is hard for him to gain any yards without his offensive line getting leverage up front, and they take pride in helping Hogan maintain his high yards-per-carry average.
“We know that Jamon does a whole lot, but every time that he has a big hole, it makes us feel proud knowing that we’re doing stuff for him and for our team,” senior center Cole McCarter said.
The offensive line is an important part of the passing game, as well. Protecting quarterback Josh Major in the pocket gives him enough time for the wide receivers’ routes to develop and get open. The Olympians’ pass protection has helped Major complete 82 percent of his passes for an average of over 16 yards per completion.
Pass protection requires a little less aggressive approach and patience from the offensive linemen than the run blocking. Each individual lineman can let go of their block once Hogan gets up field on a run play, but pass protection forces them to stay on their blocks a little longer. They also aren’t pushing the defensive linemen 10 yards up field. The first step for an offensive lineman in run blocking is forward, but for pass protection, it’s always backward.
Keeping their chest and hips low is the key to good pass protection. Offensive line coach David Miller stresses to his players about keeping their danger points back. He teaches them to keep their chest and head back so the defensive linemen can’t grab it to pull them down. Keeping their arms extended also is important because it makes it harder for the defensive linemen to make a move.
“The intensity is just a lot different,” Clark said. “As a run play, you’re focused on trying to pound on their guys and trying to drive them off the ball. Pass protection, at least for me, is a little slower and more methodical. You have to stay calm and think about it a little more. You also have to react a lot more in pass protection.”
Having good chemistry and communication also is a key component in establishing a good offensive line. Most of the line has known each other for more than four years. Clark and Sciutto have been friends for more than six years. Sciutto said it takes a lot of trust to fight in the trenches alongside his other teammates.
“There are going to be times where I kind of turn my back or don’t really see a guy that’s coming,” Sciutto said. “I have to trust these guys that they’re going to pick up the guys I don’t see.”
Major and McCarter also need to be on one accord when snapping the ball. The ball snap isn’t the flashiest part of the offense, but it is definitely something that Major and McCarter don’t take for granted. They work on their snaps every day in practice to make sure it’s perfected.
McCarter, who was a starting defensive tackle last season, said playing center is different than playing any other line position because he focuses on the snap before he gets moving. He’s been playing center since he was in middle school, so he is comfortable in the role.
“It was definitely difficult at first, but now that I have the technique down, it’s not too hard,” McCarter said. “I did it in seventh and eighth grade, and it was kind of a struggle then. Once I got in high school, it was a lot easier.”
East’s offensive line will be looking for the same type of physical performance in Friday’s sectional game at Seymour that it had in a 44-6 win against the Owls early in the season. The O-line helped the Olympians rush for 381 yards and six touchdowns in that game.
“That’s something we talked about from Day 1, is having that mentality of ‘I’m going to put my hand down, I’m going to be physical on the point of attack and knock guys off the ball,'” Miller said. “That’s what we talk about all the time — ‘Be physical and knock guys off the ball.'”
The Columbus East offensive line:
Left tackle;Jacob Bolte;Jr.;6-1;200
Left guard;Dakota Burton;Sr.;5-8;240
Right guard;Mark Sciutto;Sr.;6-0;250
Right tackle;Zack Clark;Sr.;6-3;260