By Bill Choy
Triplicate Sports Editor
They are the guys in the football trenchesthe ones who make sure the quarterback has time to find the open receiver and the running back has a hole in the defense big enough to break free in the open field.
The offensive linemen and the tight end play a vital role in the success of the 4-0 Del Norte High varsity football team.
That was evident last Friday evening in the Warriors' 39-6 victory against Fortuna.
The running game amassed 506 yards and five scores, including a 65-yard run by Cody Hoffman, a 75-yard touchdown by running back Matt Wakefield and a 71-yard run down to the 1-yard line by quarterback Chad Freeman.
All those yards and great plays were successful because the O-linethe road gradersmade sure there were openings for the other players to bust through.
"We're the big guys," left tackle Phillip Bailey said. "We take the hits."
"They're not content to just block," head coach Lewis Nova said about his offensive line. "They want to spring the runner or receiver free and go down the field with them."
Nova coaches the offensive line and said it's the guys in the trenches who can make the difference in the sometimes thin line between a win or a loss.
"If in the protection part of the game plan, if you allow the defense to contain the offense, you will not be productive," he said, adding that on every play the O-line needs to be physical and is making contact with the defensive players.
"I love that on every play you get to hit someone," Nova said. "On every play they need to do their best."
Right guard Jake Young said that when you are an offensive lineman, you can always expect to be right in the thick of the action.
"We're always hitting someone on every play,"
To Nova, who played on the O-line when he was at Del Norte High, a good offensive lineman needs to have an attitude and good feetso they can properly position their body and make a quick move to make their blocks. They also have to have the mental fortitude and drive to not allow, or want, to get beat on a play and let a defender get through.
"If you get beat, it means the quarterback may get sacked or they get to the running back," Nova said. "That's why good feet are important. They move their feet to get in the blocks so the running back can break free or make that pass protection so the quarterback can throw."
During each practice, Nova thoroughly goes over blocking and pass protection drills so it's "drilled into their heads" and becomes second nature.
Nova said a good offensive lineman has to not mind going 100 percent on every play and making contact with their opponent.
"You have to butt heads on every play," he said. "It's a personal war between yourself and that guy across from you. They're my six Warriors"
He added a good O-lineman needs to shake off a bad play and worry about doing well the next play, and the play after that.
"You have to be able to shake off a bad play and be focused," he said.
"Basically, you got to be intense but you have to be calm at the same time," Bailey said, adding an offensive lineman needs make sure the rest of the offense can successfully do their job.
This year, the starting O-line for Del Norte are Bailey at left tackle, James Sampier at left guard, Trevor Nimrod at center, Young at right guard and Roger McCovey at right tackle.
Saxon Schultz is the tight end, which means that while he's a receiver, on many plays he is blocking.
For Bailey, it's a thrill knowing he plays a part in helping the offense to perform well and knowing when he runs off the football field after a successful series he has contributed.
"I love being able to help out," Bailey said. He added it helps to have great offensive players like the ones the Warriors possess.
For instance, Bailey said it makes his job easier when even with a little hole, their running backs can cut through the seam and find an opening to pick up the extra yards.
Young said another reason for their success is that the offensive linemen for the Warriors work together as a unit and make sure the lines of communication are open on the field.
"You got to talk with each other to make sure you're blocking correctly," he said.