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Tribune photo by Aaron Piper/ Columbus East High School senior Seth Frownfelter, second to left, approaches with the other members of his team for the coin flip on Friday before the start of Columbus East's game against Seymour High School.
The left offensive tackle position in high school football wouldn’t seem to be a cerebral position.
Even at that level, players who occupy the spot tend to be the largest on the team.
At Columbus East, which has a prolific running game and needs its offensive linemen to be able to drive defenders off the ball, the left offensive tackle is somewhat of a shrimp.
At 5-foot-9, 195 pounds, senior Seth Frownfelter is an inch shorter and five pounds lighter than the team’s exceptional tailback, Markell Jones.
That doesn’t seem to matter. Jones, and his ball-carrying teammates, have been running behind Frownfelter for quite some time.
“When you are my size, you have to out-hustle him and out-technique him,” Frownfelter said of his usually-larger opponent. “Sometimes you get beat, but then it’s on to the next play.”
Frownfelter has been pushing opponents around for quite some time, playing on the line since his sophomore season.
“Seth is the guy who has been through it all,” East coach Bob Gaddis said. “He does anything he can do to get on the field.
“He is not a real vocal leader. But when he speaks, the kids listen.”
They listen because Frownfelter has learned to do more with less, or to optimize his potential.
“He is a great technician,” Gaddis said. “And he is a really good athlete. Pound-for-pound, he is a strong guy. And what really speaks well of him is that his teammates elected his as a captain.”
Frownfelter, who has overcome four right knee operations to be a factor for East, said he is just happy to have earned a role on the team.
“I just hope I am out there to help the team,” he said. “Anything I can do to help.”
In the future, Frownfelter would like to take that attitude to politics.
“I am interested in helping to get things changed,” he said. “I want to major in pre-law and minor in business. I would like to change the way people look at politicians, for the good.”
Gaddis said he could see that happening. “I know five to 10 years down the road, he is going to be a successful young man,” Gaddis said. “He is well respected around the school and he is a good student (National Honor Society).”
As a player at East, Frownfelter identified problems and set out to fix them. He wasn’t strong enough as a sophomore so he put in the work in the weight room. He now is bench-pressing 275 pounds, which is about 35 pounds more than a year ago.
He also worked hard on his footwork and over technique to give him an edge when the ball is snapped.
East offensive line coach David Miller has been with him every step of the way. Frownfelter credits Miller for much of his success. “Coach Miller does such a great job of coaching us up,” he said. “He encouraged me a lot.”
Even so, opponents might do a double take when they approach the line. Frownfelter is listed on the program as being 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds.
“I definitely get the looks,” he said. “But I’ll give them 100 percent.”
Following his sophomore season in February, Frownfelter went through his fourth surgery, an ACL reconstruction. Before that surgery, he wasn’t sure he would be able to play again.
“There’s not a moment that goes by that I don’t thank God for letting me play,” he said.
“It’s been weird that I have been healthy. It seemed the last five years I was having surgery every six months. This definitely has been enjoyable.”
With Jones rolling up the yardage and East sprinting off to three consecutive victories to start the season, Frownfelter said the sky is the limit for his squad.
He loves watching Jones flash past him on the field.
“I’m proud of him,” Frownfelter said of Jones. “We start it, and he ends it. It’s amazing. And (quarterback) Alex Cowan is so clutch. We know he is always going to do the right thing.
“There is so much trust between (the offensive linemen) and Markell and Alex.”
Of course, Frownfelter said there is trust throughout every position and every player.
“We have a lot of energy everywhere in our locker room,” he said. “We’re all just excited to play the game.”
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