Senior running back Laterian Latimer doesn't pull any punches when talking about how important the offensive line is to Lakewood's success.
"They're the gods of our offense," Latimer said Monday. "We can't do anything without them. If they're not making blocks, we can't throw the ball, we can't run the ball."
For most of the season, Lakewood (10-1) has been able to grind its way through opposing offenses. Heading into Friday's Class 5A region semifinal against Robinson (10-1), the Spartans have scored 390 points, or 35.5 per game.
Quarterback Tracy Johnson, receivers Rodney Adams, Marquez Valdes and Andrew Davis, and running backs Jocqui Ellison, Zamarie Johnson, Malcolm Ervin, Lidell Golden and Latimer have been able to run and throw during the season.
While all of the above get most of the glory, the offensive line has enabled it to happen. When left tackle Isaiah Wynn (6-foot-3, 285), left guard Anthony Haugabook (6-0, 285), center Trevon Kelly (6-0, 260), right guard Nyquel Alexander (6-5, 390), right tackle Logan McNeil (6-3, 305) and tight ends Adrian Palmore (6-3, 230) and Darquez Watson (6-3, 225) are on, Lakewood's offense can be a menace.
"I think we've been nasty up front all season," Wynn said. "As a unit, we've been working together all season just to make sure our steps are right."
About the only time the offensive line didn't play well was in the Spartans' lone loss, 19-8 to Robinson during the regular season. Lakewood was shut out in the first half and didn't have an answer for Robinson's three-man front. Johnson had little time to pass and the backs found few holes.
And in the second half Johnson was sacked and sustained a concussion, which kept him out the next two games. The only positive from that first matchup was Adams' success running from the Wildcat formation as they outscored the Knights 8-0 in the second half.
"As an offensive line we adjusted to what they were doing, but by that time it was too late," Wynn said. "Hopefully, this time we can bang some heads. If we can do that, then we'll be good."
Latimer, who missed the Robinson game with a concussion sustained the week before against Jesuit, said the line has paved the way all season. He scored twice in last week's playoff opener at Orlando Bishop Moore, and the offense racked up 424 total yards.
"It's my O-line," Latimer said. "I'm just hitting the holes. They're making the blocks."
Having big guys up front has allowed coach Cory Moore to use the running game more and take some pressure off Johnson.
"The running game's success comes down to the guys up front," Moore said. "We've had some consistency there all season."
Rodney Page can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.