CLEARWATER — From left to right, the numbers read like respectable Major League batting averages: 290, 325, 250, 235, 275. But these are no singles hitters. Rather, these are the individual weights of Countryside’s offensive linemen.
This indomitable, inseparable 1,575-pound blocking machine has pushed around opposing defenses, allowing running back Alton Taylor to rush for more than 1,771 yards and 30 touchdowns.
“I’ve been around a lot of pretty good offensive linemen,” Cougars coach John Davis said. “But as a group, this is the best that I’ve probably ever had. They have a lot of size. And they’re not only big, but agile. We haven’t given up a lot of sacks or loss of yardage and that’s a credit to them.”
Tonight’s Class 5A, region final will be decided by how this unit fares at the line of scrimmage; how Countryside (11-1) moves Plant defenders around the field; how the Panthers close the gaps on Taylor.
“Every team is tough when you’re in the playoffs,” left tackle Tyler Moore said. “And this is the toughest team we’ve faced yet.”
Moore, a junior who has committed to Nebraska, is the fulcrum on which Countryside leverages its quick-strike offense, one that has scored 60 touchdowns and is averaging 38 points per game.
“Tyler is one of the best in the country,” Davis said.
But this offensive line, as the saying goes, works like a clenched fist — five pieces bonding together.
Every lineman has been on varsity the past three years and started together the past two.
“There’s a lot of chemistry between us because we’ve been together so long,” center Mike Wiszowaty said. “We know our jobs and trust each other.”
The other linemen are right tackle Tyler Pierson, right guard Brandon Somerville and left guard Jason Dowell. And that list doesn’t include guard Alex Holzhauer, a 305-pounder who returned a few weeks ago from a knee injury.
These invisible, yet essential offensive components have done thankless work in the trenches, outworking and outhitting opponents. Their lives are all work, all effort, all pain.
And no credit.
That goes to Taylor whenever he scores a touchdown or to quarterback Jimbo Chmelik whenever he throws for one.
But make no mistake: Countryside would not go far without this line.
“We know if Alton is doing well, then we’ve done our job,” Moore said. “Our team goals were to set the school record for team rushing yards, which we did.
“Now, we just want to keep on winning.”
Bob Putnam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org