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Results, not recognition, important to offensive line | Football

The Oak Harbor High School offensive line has helped the Wildcats lead the Western Conference in rushing this year. The players include in front (left to right), Ben Miller, Austyn Walker, Tucker Lundstrom and Nick Farrell, and back, Dayne Herron, Cody Hernkind, Jeremy Foster and Casey Ferguson. - Jim Waller / Whidbey News-Times
The Oak Harbor High School offensive line has helped the Wildcats lead the Western Conference in rushing this year. The players include in front (left to right), Ben Miller, Austyn Walker, Tucker Lundstrom and Nick Farrell, and back, Dayne Herron, Cody Hernkind, Jeremy Foster and Casey Ferguson.
— image credit: Jim Waller / Whidbey News-Times

While running backs Josiah Miller and Brent Ryan gobble up the yardage and the headlines, a group of their Oak Harbor High School teammates toil in obscurity.

Does this anonymity bother the offensive line? No. They said they get their satisfaction in wins and the yards and points piled up by those they block for.

Guard Ben Miller said, “When they score, it is a TD for the team.”

Offensive line coach Peter Esvelt said of his troops, “They are a different breed. They do not need recognition.”

Tackle Dayne Herron said the lack of notoriety is “okay;  we just do our jobs.”

And, they do that job very well. Josiah Miller and Ryan are each on track to rush for over 1,000 yards this fall. Miller has run for 509 yards in four games, an average of 125 per game and 9.4 per carry. Ryan has compiled 625 yards, 156 per game and 8.9 per carry. As a team, Oak Harbor averages 386 yards on the ground per contest.

Those gaudy numbers come courtesy of the starting offensive line manned by tight end Austyn Walker, left tackle Jeremy Foster, left guard Cody Hernkind, center Tucker Lundstrom, right guard Ben Miller and the right tackle rotation of Josh McVey and Herron.

They are spelled by Nick Farrell, who, according to Esvelt, is a “jack-of-all trades” and has played center, guard and tackle this year.

When the season started, head coach Jay Turner said one of his biggest concerns was the lack of size up front.

Ben Miller said the Wildcats are “by far” the smallest line compared to the teams they have played this season. Of the interior lineman, only two are taller than six feet and four of the regulars weigh less than 200 pounds. The weights listed in the program, they said, are also generous in most cases.

The lack of girth is overcome by speed, technique, conditioning and a “chip on their shoulder attitude,” according to Esvelt.

“We rely on our quickness,” Lundstrom said.

They are the team’s hardest workers, Esvelt said, and most “definitely in the weight room.”

The group’s experience is also a strong point. The five who started up front in the 2010 season finale started the first game this year. “It was trial by fire last year,” Esvelt said. “Last year across the front, we were brand new to starting under Friday night lights.”

Ben Miller said there are a few “newbies,” but most of them have been playing together since their youth league days. He added, “We have a camaraderie and brotherhood.”

Esvelt said, “There is a bond throughout the team, and the offensive line is definitely close knit.”

The Wildcats meet for bonfires at Lundstrom’s, and the O-line meets every Thursday morning in Esvelt’s classroom for film sessions and doughnuts. The line cemented their friendship by working out in the weight room together throughout the summer.

It is common for girls to ask the players if they can wear their jerseys around school on game day. Do they request the high numbers of linemen? “No, they all want Josiah’s,” Ben Miller said with a laugh.

Herron said, “Some of the kids don’t even know we play football.”

No problem. Their names may not appear in the headlines, but their work shines as bright as the winning numbers on the scoreboard.

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