Playing on the offensive line isn’t glamorous like the positions of quarterback or running back. Statistics showcase those who rack up yards and score touchdowns.
But University School, headed to the Class 3A state final against Madison County at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, knows it would have had a tough time making it as far without the big men up front.
Coach Roger Harriott calls the line the foundation of the offense, the anchor of the attack. He relies on his linemen to hold their teammates accountable. When prospective offensive linemen first come to the program, Harriott starts them on defense so they get a feel for the “other side of the ball.”
“It starts in the trenches for us,” Harriott said. “We put a huge emphasis and a lot of responsibility on our offensive line and our defensive line, and we feel like they’re the big brothers of the program. They’re required to set the tone not only in games but in practice.”
Offensive line coach Daniel Luque brings two replica World Wrestling Entertainment belts he purchased to every game to not only honor his players, but to also serve as a reminder of the program’s history.
The black heavyweight belt, engraved with “The Fab Five,” was bought as a tribute to the linemen that helped running back Mike Barasch rush for a Broward County record of 2,031 yards in 2007. Before the start of last season, he bought the white Intercontinental belt to recognize the 2010 team that lost 56-55 in three overtimes to Trinity Catholic in the Class 2B state final.
Luque grades each lineman’s performance after every game. The one with the highest overall score holds onto the black heavyweight belt for the week.
“You get commended for [it] at school,” said senior Jordan Budwig, who has earned the belt a team-high three times.
The Suns (11-0), who average 43 points per game, have one of the most explosive offenses in the state.
Senior quarterback Mike White has been sacked only four times this season. In the 42-0 state semifinal victory over Clearwater Central Catholic last week, he went 25 of 29 for 329 yards and two touchdowns.
For the year, he has thrown for 1,905 yards, 20 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
“I think there’s been about six or seven games where I don’t think my jersey or pants were dirty at the end of it,” White said. “Last week in the state semi I didn’t get touched. I had all day to throw, and it’s just a great feeling.”
Junior LaJuan Hunt and sophomore Jordan Scarlett also benefit from the offensive line’s push. The pair has combined for 2,080 yards, 35 touchdowns and an eight yards-per-carry average.
“They open up big holes,” Hunt said. “We have a pretty tough and big O-line. Running through it is fun.”
After losing three starters on the line from last year’s team, the unit — which includes three seniors — knew it would take time to form into a cohesive group.
Budwig and senior Daniel Lutwak took it upon themselves to usher in the newcomers: Junior Ephraim Levy was previously a non-starter. Junior Mike Irizarry transferred from Flanagan. Senior Maquedius Bain, a highly recruited defensive lineman, took over the open left tackle spot.
“At first [Maquedius] struggled with it,” Lutwak said. “He’s an athlete, so he was able to keep up. Learning the plays and proper technique took a couple of weeks. As soon as he got it down, he was looking pretty good.”
Budwig, who started in the 2010 final, said he and his fellow seniors have learned plenty over the past few years to help them against Madison County (12-1). Last season, the Suns lost to the eventual champion, Delray Beach American Heritage, in the regional final.
“Losing that final was so crazy, we really had to take a lesson from it,” Bugwid said. “The year before we went 5-5, so we weren’t used to that spotlight yet. We were just coming on the scene and we were unexpected and had to face adversity. Now, we’ve gotten back to our goal at the state championship.”
• Late Thursday — Sagemont 50, Dwyer 38: Horne 8, Kande 4, Kirby 11, Raden 2, Koulechov 21, Noel 2, Holmes 2, Jean-Louis 3, Stephens 4, Gaines 2, Warthan, Andrews 2, Cherima 3, Agnew 4, Quinn 2, Quince 2, McDonough 3. Rebounds: Koulechov 7. Assists: DeLucia 5. Steals: Jurko 4. SAG 5-0.
• Late Thursday — Deerfield Beach 73, Coral Springs 34: Johnson 17, Owens 11, Jenkins 2, Kelly 3, Carpenter 10, Huntley 10, Williams 11, Grant 9, Altdont 12, Charles 11, Caney 2, Coddin 2, Omego 2, Dewar 4, Fils 1. Halftime: DB 38-16. Rebounds: Huntley 10, Kelly 10. Assists: Carpenter 5. Steals: Carpenter 4.
• Late Thursday — Flanagan 52, Miramar 54: S. Oramas 14, Albano 16, Morency 17, Cogdell 2, Nelson 7, Shamauria 20, Davicia 7, Rickae 13, Ind’ya 1, Chione 8. Halftime: FLAN 32-27. Three-pointers: Albano 2. Rebounds: Cortes 8. Assists, S. Oramas 2. Steals: Morency 3. FLAN 6-1
• Late Thursday — Boyd Anderson 61, Ft. Lauderdale 57: Jean-Pierre 23, Wilson 13, P. Pierre 13, Eubanks 6, MacDonald 2, Jean-Felix 2, Hankerson 1, Jones 1, Ford 5, Smith 3, Williams 9, Williams 4, Gardner 21, Abraham 3, Jone 9, Murphy 2. Halftime: BA 30-28. Three-pointers: Jean-Pierre 3, Wilson, Abraham, Williams, Jone. Rebounds: Jean-Pierre 10, MacDonald 8. Assists: P. Pierre 4. Steals: Jean-Pierre 4, MacDonald 3, P. Pierre 3.
• Late Wednesday — Dillard 70, Mourning 24: Halftime: DIL 38-12 Three-pointers: Osson, Walker, Vancooten, Sabizar. Rebounds: C.Wright 11. Assists: Pendergraph 4, Osson 4.
• Late Wednesday — St Thomas 58, South Broward 49: Maturah 2, Ndiaye 5, Downes 3, Umude 14, Palov 2, Haney 17, Harvey 2, Hunter 13, Tracey-12, Oltine 12, Trowel 10, Baugh 5, Adams 5, Edema 5.
• Pine Crest 4, North Broward Prep 2: Jasmine Docal, Amanda Miller, Julia Moore and Jordyn Elliot had one goal. PC 9-4-2.
• Douglas 1, Lourdes 0
• Late Thursday — Cardinal Gibbons 2, Chaminade 1: Mackenzie Crittenberger 2 goals, Melissa Carrascal goal, Bridgett Callahan assist, Abby Perry 2 assists. CG 7-1-2.
• Late Thursday — Archbishop McCarthy 6, Pope John Paul 1: Kristina Robles goal, Carissa Sanchez goal, Alexa Rivera goal, Nikki Sica goal, Stephanie Moreno goal, Toni Mendoza goal. AM 11-3.
• Late Thursday — North Broward Prep 4, Cavalry Christian 0: Emma Dineen 2 goals, Savanna Greeley goal, Rachel Blow goal, Christine Creighton 2 assists, Cayla Creighton assist. NBP 8-3-1.
• Late Thursday — Coral Springs Christian 0, Westminster Academy 4: Lexi Kinsey goal, Alex Hall goal, Alex Pagliaro goal, Camryn Pagliaro goal.
• Late Thursday — American Heritage 2, Mourning 0: Samuel Vinson goal, Julian Betancur goal. AMH 7-3-1
• Late Thursday — Hollywood Hills 2, Boyd Anderson 0: Alejandro Osorio goal, Pablo Osorio goal, Anthony Sanabria shutout. HH 5-4-2
• Late Thursday — Monarch 2, Taravella 2: Arthur Cardoso goal, Gian Scalise goal, Estaban Ochoa goal, John Lewis goal. MON 7-1-2
• Late Wednesday — Pine Crest 5, Westminster Academy 0: Brandon Danzansky 2 goals, Jonathon bell 2 goals, Grant Fitzgerald goal, Nick Schaffer shutout.
Late Thursday — Blanche Ely 45, South Plantation 24: 145: Michael Cardwell (SP) forfeit. 152: Donteveous Jones (ELY) pin Mazin Hamad (SP) 3:11. 160:
Silvera Chevelon (ELY) forfeit. 170: Kevin Castaneda (ELY) forfeit. 182: Aris Knight (ELY) forfeit. 195: Marvens Saint Charles (ELY) dec. Jaret Insel (SP) 6-1. 220: David Francis, (ELY) forfeit. 285: Michael Jean Baskin (ELY) forfeit. 106: double forfeit. 113: double forfeit. 120: Arlen Almonor (ELY), pin Devin Hart (SP) 1:30. 126: Trey Hardy (SP) forfeit. 132: Paul Nikrooye-Asli (SP) pin Berlin Regisma (ELY) 1:49. 138: Christopher Grunewald (SP) pin Deonte Deas (ELY) 1:59.
• Late Thursday — Coconut Creek 45, South Plantation 21: 152: Bernstein Bien-aime (CC) pin Mazin Hamad (SP) 1:07. 160: Marc Bazin, (CC), forfeit. 170: Enrique Gonzalez (CC) forfeit. 182: Malone Geffrard (CC) forfeit 195: Jaret Insel, (SP) pin Andrew Curry (CC) 4:59. 220: Jonathan Concepcion (CC) forfeit. 285: Benson Dorvil (CC) forfeit. 106: double forfeit. 113: double forfeit. 120: Devin Hart (SP) pin Thomas Harris (CC) 2:33. 126: Trey Hardy (SP) forfeit. 132: Joseph Ortiz (CC) pin Paul Nikrooye-Asli (SP) 1:50. 138: Christopher Grunewald (SP) dec. Shane Black (CC) 9-3. 145: Jason Williamson (CC) dec. Michael Cardwell (SP) 9-4.
Dillard at Boyd Anderson, 7:30
A-Rod Classic at Columbus - Consolations: 4; Final: 8:30.
Dillard at Boyd Anderson, 6
Western at Cypress Bay, 6
Fort Lauderdale, McArthur, Miramar, Taravella, Blanche Ely at Deerfield Beach, 10 a.m.
Nova, Everglades, Cypress Bay, Coral Springs, Archbishop McCarthy, South Broward at Western, 10 a.m.
Sagemont at Hillel, 8