Men in the trenches
When told to get into their best Heisman Trophy pose, the five members of Fredonia’s offensive line looked at each other and needed someone to demonstrate the pose.
While Fredonia running back Matt McCarthy has rushed for 1,486 yards and 30 touchdowns this year, a lot that is in large part to right tackle Jin Kim, right guard Tony Swierk, center Zack Odebralski, left guard Steve Mignoli and left tackle Nick Formanowicz.
“When you look at game film, there are gaping holes the backs are running through,” Fredonia coach Mike Marshall said. “A lot of times, McCarthy has been able to get through to the second level before getting hit because of the holes he is running through.”
Life as an offensive lineman is sometimes thankless. To the casual football fan, the running back receives all the accolades after a big run, and the linemen receive all the blame when the quarterback is sacked.
And these Fredonia linemen don’t want it any other way.
“I actually like being in the trenches,” Kim said. “It’s better than being a running back from my point of view. Running backs are running away from people and we are hitting them.”
“We do what we gotta do,” Odebralski noted. ” (Matt) McCarthy gets the credit, but he let’s us know we helped.”
The strength of Fredonia’s offensive line was on full display in the first round of the Section 6 Class C playoffs as the Hillbillies rolled past Tonawanda, 43-7.
McCarthy ran for 138 yards that night and after his work was done, Cody Smith stepped into the backfield and was able to rack up 107 yards of his own.
“I don’t even pay attention if I’m running to the right or left,” Marshall said about calling offensive plays. “I’m looking at the field position and if we can be successful running to that side of the field. I assume they will do their job. That’s nice as a head coach. A lot of schools can only run towards their ‘best’ (offensive linemen). They show up every day. They have the blue collar mentality. They don’t complain and they work hard.”
The hard work for the front five started in the summer. While the backfield and receivers were taking part in a passing league, the linemen were in the weight room twice a week working out and mastering the fundamentals with coaches Tim Wright and Kyle Yelich.
“Tim and Kyle have put a lot of hours and time in,” Marshall noted. “They come together and have scripted plays and practices to make us successful.”
“Going to the offseason and going through weight training and all the things we did together kind of brought us closer as a team,” Odebralski said. “And through the fundamentals aspect, we did it from day one and it’s helping us now.”
Fredonia’s offensive line has its hands full Saturday when it takes on Cleveland Hill for the Class C championship at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The Golden Eagles’ defensive line consists of brothers Keon and Keyshawn Carter, who weigh 295 pounds and 310, respectively.
In the National Football League, if a running back has a successful season, he often buys his offensive linemen expensive gifts as a show of gratitude.
According to Odebralski, Fredonia’s front five will settle for dinner.
“McCarthy’s parents told him he will get $100 to take us to dinner. We are waiting for that day.”