Chapel Hill's offensive line paving the way
April 4, 2012Chapel Hill High School Football
NEW CHAPEL HILL — Offensive linemen never cross the goal line, nor do their names show up in the box score.
That’s just fine with Chapel Hill senior tackle Daniel Smith.
“I love it,” he said. “It’s the greatest thing ever to me. I don’t get to run the ball, but it feels good pancaking someone to make way for Andrew Tucker or Rex Rollins to get a touchdown.”
And there’s been plenty of that this season for the top-ranked Bulldogs (11-0), who square off with fellow unbeaten Waco La Vega today in the regional round of the Class 3A Division I playoffs.
Chapel Hill averages more than 51 points and 530 yards per game. Despite a bevy of talent at the skill positions, the five up front have served as exemplary end zone escorts on all 76 touchdowns this season.
The contingent of Smith, Keundas Wade, Josh Hamilton, Pedro Valdez and Marco Orpineda helped the Bulldogs roll up more than 500 rushing yards in their 70-28 bi-district win over Jasper last week.
“I was very proud,” Chapel Hill offensive line coach Sam Brandt said. “We put in a very hard week of work. Our pad level was amazing. The extra effort was great, finishing blocks, maintaining blocks in order to have (our backs) run through.”
Chapel Hill backs averaged almost 11 yards per carry against Jasper, who rushed for a season-high nine touchdowns.
“They’re the best offensive line that I’ve ever been associated with since I’ve been coaching,” Bulldogs head coach Thomas Sitton said. “It was their best performance this year and they’ve had some great performances. I thought Jasper was a good football team, and I still do. We just dominated up front. That’s where you win football games, and they are getting it done right now.”
The word “athlete” is seldom used in the same sentence with offensive lineman, but in Chapel Hill’s hurry-up, no-huddle offense, the term fits.
“The great thing about our guys is they love the pace at which we get to play because it wears people down,” Brandt said. “One of the big things we do in two-a-days is we form that pace. We condition and train in that pace, not only in two-a-days but also in the offseason so we can be successful at it later in the year.”
The linemen don’t mind the pace.
“It’s an advantage for us,” Valdez said. “It’s fast so it gets the defense tired. The faster we get, the more tired they get.”
It’s a rate of play Brandt has embraced since switching from running backs coach prior to the 2010 season.
“He takes a tremendous amount of pride in his boys, the kids that he coaches,” Sitton said of Brandt. “He’s very meticulous, very detail-oriented. He really takes pride in his group, probably more than any coach we’ve got. The kids love playing for him. He’d do anything for them and they’d do anything for him.”
Brandt said it takes a special kind of person to play on the offensive line.
“They’ve got to be a little bit of a pain in the butt,” he said. “You’ve got to be a little mean and a little aggressive. Most good offensive linemen have a mean streak. I think ours are pretty good at it now.”
NOTES: Kickoff for Friday's game is set for 7:30 p.m. at Bowers Stadium in Huntsville on the campus of Sam Houston State University. Chapel Hill is the designated visiting team … The winner between Chapel Hill and La Vega will play the winner between Navasota and Huffman Hargrave … La Vega defeated Chapel Hill 56-8 in their only previous meeting, which occurred in the 2008 regional round.