Linemen doing 'dirty work' for 'physical' offense

Photos by Hunter Tickel/The Herald
Southridge senior Cameron Fuesler (75) gets ready for Tell City with linemen drills. The Raiders topped Tell City 49-17 on Friday at Raider Field in Huntingburg.


HUNTINGBURG — Manning the line of scrimmage on the offensive side comes with in-depth intricacies.

Ninth-year Southridge coach Scott Buening knows from experience, not only the wear and tear it takes on your body, but the persona and knowledge that it summons.

“It really does take a special person to be a lineman,” said Buening, who was a lineman at North Decatur High School, University of Dayton and Hanover College. “Your name is never in the paper. Nobody ever talks about you. Really the only person that ever watches these guys is their moms. The only thing they care about is that they get up after the play.”

Southridge (3-3, 2-1) ran rampant through holes that were opened against Pocket Athletic Conference Small School Division foe Tell City on Friday, scoring three of their six rushing touchdowns in the first quarter en route to a 49-17 blowout at Raider Field.

The gritty position in the trenches requires face-to-face0 physicality for every snap, which typically totals 150.

“People have no clue what linemen have to do,” Buening said. “You always talk about the big dumb linemen and they are anything but. The things they have to week in and week out and the communication, decisions, they see different fronts, guys in different places. They have to make adjustments and calls and pick up blitzes while the play is going on.”

Southridge has become a powerhouse in the state with appearances of at least semistate in three of the past four years, including a Class 2A state title in 2017. A catalyst for these three double-digit win seasons has been the Raiders’ rushing game paved by the line.

“Southridge Raider football, that’s what it’s known for, we are going to run the ball, we are going to establish the run,” he said. “We are going to get off the ball, we are going to play physical. We are going to be undersized (up front) most nights that we play.”

On Friday against Tell City, the line opened gaps for 315 yards on 35 carries for an average of nine.

The formation of the line is junior Crew Gerber, senior Matt Altmeyer, senior Cameron Fuesler, senior Hunter Eckert and sophomore Xavier Vanegas, listed at 6-foot, 316 pounds.

“Cameron, being a center, is the only player guaranteed of touching the ball on every down of every game,” Buening said. “There’s a lot of responsibility that goes with that. (Fans) only notice when the snap doesn’t go well. Never the 99.9% of the ones that do.”

Senior team captain Hunter Eckert (73) plays right guard on offense for Southridge and inside linebacker. The Raiders topped Tell City 49-17 on Friday at Raider Field in Huntingburg.

Fuesler, who was first to the line seconds before the rest of his unit Friday, said the group is coming together in his final season. A line that previously mumbled at scrimmage is using distinct voices to call out fronts.

The calling card for this mix, which plays in the shadows of the skills players, is being a hard physical line, Fuesler said.

“I feel like there is a lot of dirty work, but I think also you have to take pride in doing that dirty work and getting your job done every play,” he said. “It is kind of hard job but you then have to remember that everyone else’s job on that same team is hard so you have to get up every play and go back and do it again.”

Athleticism is incumbent for Raider guards.

“Guards in our system, in a lot of cases, would be running backs at a lot of schools,” Buening said. “We do a lot of pulling. They have to be strong, quick, aggressive, athletic. They got to be able to move.”

Buening said a typical career progression for guards is from fullback to tight end, to the line.

Eckert, a right guard, made this exact evolution.

He was in the backfield as an underclassman, had heavy-blocking assignments as a tight end last year, before being positioned on the line at right guard.

Eckert was sidelined in Week 5 last year with a knee injury before mounting his rehab and fulfilling his role in the trenches.

“We just needed a guard for the linemen so (coach) tried different people,” Eckert said. “He said I was physical enough to be a guard. Tight ends in our offense just basically block. They have a couple passing routes but other than that they usually block. It was basically the same thing. Guards pull more than tight ends.”

Pulling consists of getting up the field to block for runners past the line of scrimmage, for instance on a screen dump-offs.

Making the transition to the line for increased playing time was welcomed by Eckert.

“I just like playing football,” Eckert said. “It doesn’t really matter where I play. Obviously, I’d rather be running the ball like I used to be, but I still like playing.”

More on