They are big and tall. They are agile. They are experienced. They are talented.
They, being the offensive line, are the lifeblood of Davenport Assumption’s football team.
“I like knowing deep down we’re the glue of the team,” junior guard Adam Heinrichs said. “Without us, not much would go great.”
So far, even with a first-year starting varsity quarterback and a new primary tailback, everything has been going well for the Class 3A sixth-ranked Knights. They’ve won all three games by at least 34 points and had a continuous clock in each one of them.
From an offensive standpoint, much of that can be attributed to the boys in the trenches — left tackle Nate Timmons, left guards Tyler Smith and Heinrichs, center Cayden McNamara, right guard Tyler Maro and right tackle Joe Turner. Junior Jason Armstrong also figures into the rotation.
Collectively, they have more than 60 varsity starts.
“We’ve all been together for such a long time, probably since seventh or eighth grade,” Timmons said. “We’ve been on the same line and been able to work together. We all know what we’re doing, so we don’t have to worry about a certain guy not doing the job.”
Timmons started toward the tail end of his sophomore year and weighed less than 220 pounds. He's now a 6-foot-7 and 270-pound senior.
Maro, with a slew of Division I offers, has put on nearly 40 pounds since starting as a sophomore and is 6-7, 265.
Turner, 6-5 and 295, is a junior in his second season as a starter.
"I'm not big, so it scares me sometimes when I have to go up against those guys (in practice)," Armstrong said. "I like to hope it scares (opponents) when they go against them."
While the size and strength are definite advantages, the technique is just as vital. They've all learned under longtime offensive line coach Mark Kaczmarek.
"He's just a spring of knowledge that has helped us grow," Armstrong said.
Kaczmarek has molded big linemen like Timmons and Turner. Has also developed players like McNamara (5-10, 190) and Heinrichs (6-0, 180).
"There is more to football than just being big," Assumption coach Wade King said. "Obviously, that's an advantage, but we hope there is skill and an ability to block our schemes and do everything we ask. Those things are certainly more important than how much they weigh."
Heinrichs will step in as the starting guard Friday night at Central DeWitt for Smith, who suffered an ankle injury in last week's win over Marion.
"It sucks, especially him being a senior, to go down like that, but I have to step up this week," Heinrichs said. "I'm looking forward to it."
Assumption is averaging 254 yards per game on the ground and has scored 15 rushing touchdowns in three weeks.
Dayne Hodge, the team's leading rusher, is collecting almost 9 yards per carry. Noah Gonzales and Logan Ehrecke, next on the team in rushing, average 6.5 and 6.4 yards per attempt. Quarterback Ayden Weiman has been sacked just once.
"We take a lot of pride in what we do," Maro said. "We understand when we do a good job, it is a lot easier for the backs to do what they need to do.
"Our offensive line definitely sets a tone. When we come out and start moving people right from the get-go, it definitely brings energy up around the field."
Turner has been pleased with the unit's performance but admits he's seen mistakes that can be corrected.
"If we have a bad rep, everyone sees that," Turner said. "So we always talk about let's make the next one good."
It goes back to continuity.
Several of the linemen have been on the same team and shared the same football experiences since elementary school.
"We all have great chemistry together," Turner said, "so we can communicate with each other freely."
Timmons and Maro are viewed as the leaders of the line. They are two of the team's four captains and have around 35 varsity starts between them.
"Those two know the ropes," King said. "They've led this group and they've developed a sense of pride in what they do.
"We love the idea of running the football. If you're going to do that, you've got to have some guys up front that do a great job moving people. We always want to win the line of scrimmage."
To this point, Assumption has achieved that.
The Knights have bigger aspirations after missing the playoffs each of the past two seasons. Even though every team qualifies this fall, they want much more than just a Week 8 game.
And for Assumption to reach those heights, it starts up front.
"If we're not doing our job, nobody else can do their job effectively," Timmons said. "If we can get the job done, that will get the game going the way we want."
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