November 21st, 2014

Tigers have a line of credit

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Conor Revell

Managing Editor

Tigers have a line of credit
Nathan Scheler (62) and Lowell Brown (64) like doing the dirty work on St. X’s offensive line and feel appreciated / photo by Jacob Hayslip

A number of talented running backs have played for St. Xavier over the past decade. But without a stellar offensive line clearing paths for them, they may have never shined while playing for the Tigers.

St. X’s offensive line continues to open up holes for the running game and protect the quarterback from those big, mean defensive linemen.

But it’s not often that the O-line gets direct recognition from people outside the locker room. It’s the quarterbacks and running back that have to credit their teammates for doing the dirty work in the trenches.

“It really didn’t bother me,” said St. X head coach Will Wolford, who was a standout offensive lineman during his long playing career. “There’s just something about playing on the line and you just band together. You take a lot of pride in the quarterback and running back’s success. After playing the game for a while, you start to realize that the closer you are to the ball, the more important you are.”

Wolford was a star at the high school, college, and pro level. The St. X and Vanderbilt alum played for the Buffalo Bills, Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers and played in three Pro Bowls and three Super Bowls.

Times and attitudes haven’t changed. Senior offensive linemen Nathan Scheler and Lowell Brown agreed with their coach.

“Not really, we’re a team, and the running backs agree and say it’s all us and congratulate us all the time,” the 6-foot-2, 270-pound Scheler said. “We’re all a team, and we don’t care who gets the stats. It’s all about going out there and getting a win.”

There’s much more to being a stellar lineman than just being big and strong.

“It’s critical to communicate,” Wolford said. “The defensive line can line up, adjust and move around. The next time they’re in totally different spots. The line up front is judged as a group, and they all have to be on the same page. If they all grade 90 percent but they all make a mistake on different plays, then your efficiency rate isn’t going to be very good. They all have to be on the same page.”

Any miscommunication can lead to a false start penalty or a bad snap, and all of sudden the offensive line is in the coaches’ doghouse.

“Every time we go out there, we’re making calls,” said the 6-4, 235-pound Brown. “Communication is very key. If you don’t, then you can mess up the play. We’re such good friends with each other, that’s why we have such a good line and that’s why we communicate well with each other.”

Brown, Scheler and Wolford agree that if you want to play on the line, you have to think team first, not of yourself.

“Scheler and Tyler Haycraft are guys who have started every game the past two years,” Wolford said. “They’re tough players and very tough kids. They lead by example. Neither of them say a whole lot, but they don’t have to.”

The big boys on the line use their muscle to protect while the “skill players” dazzle the crowd.

But St. X running back TaiJon Smith and quarterback Noah Houk are appreciative of what their linemen do and often are very complimentary of them after a game.

“I like being offensive linemen because whenever we score a touchdown the running backs, quarterbacks and wide receivers congratulate us,” Scheler said. “It makes us feel like we’re a part of the team and we’re all one together.”

It was the offensive line that propelled the Tigers to their first victory over archrival Trinity since 2009 back Oct. 4.

Now the offensive line readies itself to face Trinity again Friday night, but this time a trip to the Class 6-A state semifinals is up for grabs.

“We came out fast early,” Scheler said. “We’re going to have to do that again. They’re big up front and physical. We have to do the same thing we did last time.”

Sophomore running back Blake Roshkowski carried the ball five times for 96 yards and two touchdowns while Smith rushed for 40 yards and a touchdown as the Tigers picked up 162 yards on the ground in the regular-season meeting with the Shamrocks.

“It’s awesome blocking for TaiJon,” Brown said. “He’s friends with all of us and knows what we’re going to do. He has a great relationship with us and knows which way we’re going to try and go and block. We try to give him the best hole possible so that he can go through easily.”

Houk was sacked only once and passed for 186 yards and three touchdowns.

“We try to protect him,” Scheler said. “The guy is very agile and can move around. He throws a great ball and he spreads the ball out. He gives us a lot of credit when he does well.”

Though St. X and Trinity will have to play 48 minutes to decide a winner, one thing is certain: Nobody will credit the O-line if they’re the reason their team won and everybody will notice if the O-line makes mistakes and their team loses.

“The only time people know your name is when you screw up,” Wolford said with a chuckle. “It’s part of the gig. But the team knows that they’re the leaders. They’re the guys that pull us together. There’s no doubt that the offensive linemen are some of the most respected guys on the team.”



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