July 1, 2016

Mostly cloudy

Offensive line plays big role in win


Chad Grant

The Gazette

BRUNSWICK — Their names won’t show up in the box score, but the unheralded and often anonymous Highland offensive linemen came up big Friday.

It would be hard to find a better performance than the one turned in by the six road graders in the Hornets’ 24-21 Division II, Region 4 final win over Avon.

The play of Tyler Gienger, Myles Houska, Tanner Ramey, Tyler Frederick, Michael Doak and tight end Conor McCune allowed the Hornets (13-0) to physically dominate the line of scrimmage, particularly in the second half.

“It’s really a team effort,” Gienger said. “We really don’t have the D-I athletes that other teams have, but we’re a true team. We really are in all aspects.”

Three long, mauling drives in the second half were the difference as quarterback Bruce Kinsey and tailback Alex Harris lined up behind the big boys up front and ground time of the clock.

That allowed the Hornets to gain small chunks of yardage and kept the explosive Avon (12-1) offense on the sideline for all but 4:32 of the second half.

Using the read-option for most of the second half, Highland methodically moved up and down the field on the ground and wore down the Eagles defense.

“We have a system and the kids know the play very well,” Highland coach Tom Lombardo said. “We feel confident going into a game. That is one of their strengths. Bruce makes good decisions and Alex is hard to tackle. We were able to get it going as the game went on.”

The drives led to a pair of touchdowns and the game-winning 20-yard field goal from Luke Allen with 6:56 left.

On each drive, Highland converted time and time again on third-and-short and fourth-and-short to maintain possession and chew more time off the clock.

“The biggest concern we have on those short-yardage plays is hearing the cadence,” Doak said. “That’s all that’s going through our heads because we know we can do it. We’ve been doing it for 13 games and 13 weeks now.”

Harris couldn’t wait to give the guys opening holes for him during those 13 games some much-deserved credit.

“I’ve been waiting all year to talk about them,” he said. “They are the anchor of this team. They just get everything going. Our bread and butter is the read-option. If we don’t have a good line like we do, then it doesn’t work. They are the No. 1 reason why we are here.”

Kinsey wanted to make sure the guys up front were recognized as well.

“I trust them with my life,” he said. “I’ll fight for them and they’ll fight for me. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Contact Chad Grant at sports@medina-gazette.com.