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.