Liberty, Bellevue offensive lines boast odd training regimens
October 21, 2009
By Mason Kelley
Seattle Times staff reporter
NEW — 2:28 p.m. Oct. 21, 2009
Bellevue’s linemen decided to try something new this summer.
They met on the field at midnight, set up a blocking sled and started pushing. Up and down the field they trudged. They hit 1,600 yards — a school record — but realized they weren’t ready to quit.
They kept going until they reached 2,010 yards, a mark that satisfied the seniors.
“It kind of showed that we would do anything,” senior tackle Hank Thayer said.
While the Wolverines worked late-night sleds, Liberty’s line decided to build its “farm-boy strength.” Patriots senior center Alex Kaser called his uncle in Silverton, Ore. and asked if he had any spare tractor tires. The linemen spent the summer flipping a 300-pound tire down the field and around the track.
“In order to flip this thing you have to use your whole body,” Kaser said. “It involves not just weight-room strength, but that strength you can only find within yourself to flip it.”
When the second-ranked Wolverines (5-2) travel to play the No. 3 Patriots (7-0) at 7 p.m. Friday, the unique training regimens of each line will be tested. For Bellevue, the challenge is to blow open holes that make the misdirection of the wing-T offense work. On the other side of the field, the Patriots’ plan is to protect the trio of junior skill players who produce points in their high-powered offense.
“I don’t think we have the biggest O-line around, but they work hard,” Liberty coach Steve Valach said. “They’re not entitled to stuff. I think they understand that if you work hard, you can deserve success.”
With six state titles in eight seasons, the Wolverines have turned the wing-T into an art form. As linemen graduate, the tradition is passed down. Assistant head coach Pat Jones has worked with the offensive line since 2003; his first year at Bellevue was 1982. He points to the 2004 group, anchored by Stephen Schilling during his junior season, as one of the best he has seen.
Jones has shown the current group film from the Wolverines’ 39-20 victory over De La Salle of Concord, Calif., that season — which snapped the Spartans’ 151-game win streak — to illustrate how a championship-caliber offensive line gets off the ball.
Five years from now, he would like to show players tape of this group.
“I don’t think we’re there yet, but that doesn’t mean we won’t get there,” Jones said.
Troy Solly, a senior tackle for the Patriots, spent a portion of the summer on vacation in Connecticut. He came back to find his teammates flipping a tire. He admitted it caught him by surprise, but “it got us in shape.”
With four seniors and a sophomore on the line, leadership at Liberty starts up front. Kaser said they feel like parents.
“It’s our duty to protect them,” he said.
On the front of the green practice jerseys worn by Liberty linemen is the word ubuntu. It is a Zulu word that means, “I am because we are.” It is a concept the Patriots take seriously.
“It’s a team that scores,” senior tackle Dan Eck said. “We all do it for each other.”
When the Wolverines hit 2,010 yards, junior tackle Marcus Henry said he felt “amazing.” It was the kind of accomplishment that provided so much satisfaction, he couldn’t feel the pain of the process. It was a bonding experience the group will long remember.
“We really came together that night,” Henry said. “Pushing at midnight, breaking the record with 2,010 yards, that was huge. We reach our goals. That’s it, plain and simple. We exceed expectations.”
Mason Kelley: 206-464-8277 or firstname.lastname@example.org