Physicality, toughness shape Raider O-Line

Herald File Photo by Brittney Lohmiller
While Southridge offensive linemen Matt Gentry (72) and Conner Oxley (51) are seen joking here on the sideline during the week one victory over Linton, during the games they're as serious as you can be. The Raider O-Line has helped lead Southridge to a successful season with both their run game and passing attack thanks to solid blocking and knowledge of the schemes.

By HENDRIX MAGLEY
hmagley@dcherald.com

In the game of football, it’s common to see the focus put on players who tend to score the touchdowns and make the highlight plays such as 80-yard touchdown runs and leaping receptions in the end zone.

But in order for those plays to happen, there’s a group of big guys that must make sure the “behind the scenes” work is all taken care of. Welcome to the offensive line.

While Southridge senior Wyatt Kramer knows the linemen don’t often get the headlines or highlight reel videos posted on social media, there isn’t any position that he’d rather play. The selling point for Kramer? Bullying the other team with physicality.

Playing offensive line you get to hit somebody every play,” Kramer said with a laugh. “You have one job at that’s to get off the ball and hit somebody. It’s just so much fun to be playing with these guys my whole life — it’s a brotherhood.”

Southridge’s offensive line has been led by a rotating group of seniors Kramer, Matt Gentry, Devin Murphy, Tyler Bolen, Ben Hudson, Logan Seger and juniors Conner Oxley, Sam Schroeder and sophomore Chase Taylor.

Raider head coach Scott Buening has often preached the importance of the offensive line and believes that the current group has come a long way from the beginning of their summer workouts.

“This is the second year in a row where we’ve had a line in the summer where we thought we just have to find a way to get some continuity,” Buening said. “Those guys have so many things they have to do — they have to make calls, make decisions before every snap, make adjustments during plays and there’s so many things they’re responsible for. Sometimes it takes awhile for that to all come together because there are so many intricacies. They do so many behind the scenes things that are so important. ”

Kramer

While the offensive line may not get the hype that other positions get, it’s safe to say that Southridge’s offense wouldn’t be where it’s at without the solid play from the big guys up front.

The Raiders (6-3) average 257 rushing yards per game and have also been able to call more pass plays due to the tremendous pass protection the Southridge offensive line has protected sophomore quarterback Colson Montgomery with.

“We have to be sharp all the time because if the offensive line doesn’t go then nobody goes,” said Murphy. “We have to work hard everyday at practice just to continue to improve what we’re doing.”

Gentry added: “It’s all about scheme and making the correct calls because you can’t make a play if you don’t have your call.”

In order for things to go smoothly on game nights, there’s a lot of work that has to be done both on and off the field in advance.

And interestingly enough, it all starts with a pencil and a paper in the form of a weekly quiz.

“At the beginning of each week, we get a play sheet and we have to fill out with what we have to block — everybody always asks me for help all the time,” Kramer said with a laugh.

The quizzes don’t bother Kramer one bit, mostly because he’s a “rat” for film, as he describes it. In fact, he says that the constant watching of tape in advance of an opponent has helped not only to better himself but his teammates as well.

“I do all that to help my guys out and they help me out on the field too, it really complements each other,” Kramer said. “After a Friday night game, I’ll watch film on how I did and then on Saturday I watch how the rest of the team did but on Sunday I have to watch the (Minnesota) Vikings play. But on Monday, we’ll have a film session and then from there on out I’ll watch about an hour each day — I’ll even watch some in class on Friday, even though I probably shouldn’t but it’s all part of getting ready.”

In tough situations, Buening knows that the offensive line can potentially be an x-factor for the Raiders and it’s something he’s already seen come through clutch in some big situations this year.

Murphy

At the end of the day, the Raider head coach is aware that without a solid group up front the Southridge football team wouldn’t be able to perform some of the big plays that they have seemingly week in and week out.

“When we can have our skill guys do what we call ‘ball magic’, which is some misdirection in the backfield, our linemen have to be doing their thing up front for that to work,” Buening said. “You can’t have one without the other — you can’t have great skill kids with no offensive line and expect things to happen and you can’t have a great line with no skill players and get anything accomplished.”

Southridge will open their postseason play on Friday night against Pocket Athletic conference foe South Spencer (2-7) and the Raiders are hoping to once again make an extended postseason run like they did in 2017 en route to the team’s first ever football state championship in school history.

The offensive line will play a major factor in dictating just how deep Southridge’s postseason run will last and Buening knows that this group of guys have the power to lead the Raiders to where they want to go.

“Our offensive linemen are a different breed — they never get their name in the paper, no one pays attention to them except for their mom and the coach but those guys are hitting people and working hard so that other guys can get their pictures in the paper and be successful,” Buening said. “It’s the epitome of what we pride ourselves on — just the blue-collar work ethic and we’ve got guys who have selflessly embraced that. It’s a pretty special thing.”

But as the offensive line will tell you, it’s pretty fun when you get to lay down the hit stick on guys every single play as well.

“Pancaking people and knocking them down, yeah that’s fun,” Gentry said with a laugh. “As long as we follow our scheme and our rules, the game will go however we want it to.”




More on DuboisCountyHerald.com