By LARRY GAGE
Special to the PRESS
They are the unsung heroes, those players who engage in hand-to-hand combat down in the trenches. They get all the blame when one of their backs gets thrown for a loss, and little of the credit when the team gets a score or a big gain. They are the offensive linemen and the performance of their duties is critical to the success of the team on a given Friday night and over the course of a season.
“They’re getting better,” Port Isabel head football coach Monty Stumbaugh told the Press last week. “Linemen are a pretty close-knit group and they need to be.”
Senior Peter Garcia is the only full-time starter in the front line who returns from last season. “They’re all trying to lead in their own way,” Stumbaugh said. “Peter has the most experience. He’s kind of a quiet kid – doesn’t say much. They’re all kind of quiet.”
Because of the complexities of their job it’s harder for the offense to come together at the start of a season than it is for the defense. This is especially true for the offensive line.
“It’s about how to block, depending on the type of play that’s being run,” Stumbaugh said. “As a lineman, when you come up, you’ve got to see if they’re in an odd-man front, an even-man front. You’ve got to be disciplined. On 75 plays on offense, you want to be 75 for 75 on your blocking assignments. You want to be perfect but we know we’re not going to be.”
The Press sought out several members of the 2015 Tarpon offensive line to get their thoughts on how they play their positions and how the season has gone so far.
Center Peter Garcia is the only lineman who has something else to do before he can execute his block. “First, you’ve got to get the ball to the quarterback – that’s the main objective. I just try to put the ball in the same spot every time.”
Getting off the ball quickly at the snap is very important, as tackle Ian Torres, a junior, said. “As long as you take your steps right you basically beat the other guy.” Pass blocking presents a special challenge. “You need to pick up people you don’t see coming,” Torres explained. “There’s always someone coming in late.”
“You’ve got to set your ground so nobody gets through,” junior linebacker and tight end Christopher Bode said. “If there’s extra guys coming through you’ve got to make sure you pick them up.”
Advance game preparation includes spending time in the film room. “We watch film during the week,” senior right tackle Nick Marquez said last week. “(I) see who I’m up against, so by the time we get on the line, I know how fast they are, how well they move.”
Senior left tackle Michael Moore believes it’s an ongoing process, this business of playing on the offensive line; “Since two-a-days we’ve been working hard and getting our stuff together. We’ve got a long ways to go but eventually we’ll get there.”
“Even if the play is going away from you, you have to make sure that guy isn’t going to make a big play,” Moore continued. “(You have to) stay in front of him and slow him down.”
Mutual trust is also an important part of offensive line play. “You want to help the guy next to you, but you’ve got to do your job first,” right guard Juan Apango said.
Hector Gonzalez, another center, put it like this: “It’s hard but you have to be able to trust the guy on either side of you. Otherwise, it’s not a unit.”
“It’s a tough job down in the trenches,” Stumbaugh said. “They’re banging on every play. And they don’t get a lot of credit – they don’t get their names in the paper, and they don’t score touchdowns.”
The Tarpons are back in Tarpon Stadium this week for a game against Valley View. It’s the team’s first home game since the season opener against Grulla.
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