Last Update: Thursday, April 17, 2014
|The Pillars of Celts|
|Written by Mike Terry Contributing Writer|
|Thursday, 04 October 2012 03:26|
The Offensive Line Of Crespi High Has been Three Years In The Making But, Led By Seniors Like Stephen Hutchinson And Ricky Wolff, Has Matured Into The Power Unit That Has Pushed Crespi To A 6-0 Start
Carrying Their Weight - The growth and maturity of the Celts offensive line, including seniors Richard Wolff and Stephen Hutchinson, is a big reason why Crespi will contend for the 2012 Serra League championship.
It's not exactly news that undefeated Crespi High is playing great football, and is a contender for the Serra League and Southern Section Pac-5 championships.
Or that the Celts are blessed with outstanding skill players like quarterback Cody Cordell, running back Okalani Langi, and wide receiver J.B. Blackwell.
It's what's up front that's different about this version of the Celts (6-0) who, after a bye week, open Serra League play hosting Los Angeles Loyola (6-0) this Friday, Oct.5. The big boys doing the blocking are, in fact, playing like Big Boys.
Ask Coach Jon Mack the key reason why Crespi has outscored its first six opponents by an average of 32.5 points per game, and he doesn't hesitate. "The offensive line," Mack said. "They've really done a great job. That's been a strength."
Mind you linemen, while not necessarily secretive, don't always like to explain why things work. They tend to be more selfless than self-absorbed; they are usually among the smartest players on team because they have to know the playbook backwards and forwards and be able to adapt to changing plays and blocking schemes within seconds.
And when you play the spread offense schemes that Crespi does, which can include nohuddle plays, you literally have seconds to know the right play being called and execute it. And accomplish all of this while burly, snarling defensive linemen and linebackers are eager to commit mayhem on your play and your person.
This year, Mack said this group of blockers is ready to handle that responsibility. "It was something we really invested time, money and effort," he said. "It started with getting a full-time line coach on campus, who's been with the guys every day. We put our bet-ter athletes on the offensive line. But linemen take time to build; they just don't happen.
It's been something we've emphasized the last three years. The first year we had like 3-4 sophomores starting. Those guys are now all seniors.
They've been around the system and know it now, and that makes a huge difference." Two of those seniors, Stephen Hutchinson and Richard Wolff, were willing to share some insight on why and how the offensive line's play has become so stout.
For Wolff, 17, who plays center, it's more about the group's fruition coming with age. "There's a totally different mindset in terms of the attitude," Wolff said. "I think, my sophomore year when I played, our first game we didn't have a single guy with any varsity experience on the O-line. It was four sophomores and one senior, who was a converted linebacker. We were all pretty scared. I started at center as a 15-year-old and didn't know what to expect.
"That whole first year, there's a different mentality when you go in and you know you're younger than these guys; you feel they have something on you. When you're a senior, you feel they don't have anything on you. These last couple of games, especially on the offensive line, we've implemented a more 'tough guy' mentality, where we're all running downfield, looking for somebody to hit."
For Hutchinson, 17, a tackle, the answer is a bit more compact but similar.
"I feel this year we are more tightly-knitted together. Maybe it's the experience factor. Our senior class is all close," Hutchinson said.
Offensive line coach Manoa Pouono also sees patience and time for the development of his players, especially Hutchinson and Wolff.
"The biggest thing was their mentality. They're a lot meaner and aggressive, and they understand the teaching concepts of being mean and nasty to play in the trenches. That's one of the biggest things that's changed from when they were sophomores," Pouono said.
"Obviously they understand all the technique and all the stuff that needs to be done; these two are among the strongest guys mentally that I have now. I'll give them a couple of coaching points, and they already understand what I'm talking about. That's what happens when you have guys for three years."
The Loyola game has a special meaning. Last year the Celts lost to the Cubs by one point in overtime, 36-35. The defeat dropped Crespi into a three-way tie for third and the league's final playoff spot. Crespi lost the coin flip and missed the playoffs.
Wolff had missed most of the season with a knee injury. Still, he felt Loyola loss deeply.
"You feel sick," he said. "You see the guys in the locker room afterward crying, and you feel so powerless. I felt like I should have been able to do something.
Now, this year, I have that opportunity to go and do something.
"I can't speak for the other guys, if they felt they left something on the field. But this has been the motivation over the semester. Now, every game in Serra League is, obviously, motivation. The ultimate goal is not [just] beat Loyola or Notre Dame but to win league, and win CIF and then state.
Those are real goals. But beating Loyola is an integral part of going to the playoffs."
Hutchinson is a bit more cautious in his response but it can't cloak all of his feelings.
"We have four hard games coming up…and you want to get prepared for each one," he said. "You don't want to put more emotion into this game; but it's going to be emotional because of how last year ended."
Mack, naturally, doesn't want to give Loyola any added incentive. He's quick to point out the Celts lost their three league games in 2011, including a two-point defeat to eventual champion Alemany, which put them in the position of needing to win the coin flip to advance.
"That was last year. But last year was very frustrating," Mack said. "We were three points from a league championship. But it was frustrating to not finish those (three) games. But that's so long ago; all we can worry about is league now."
And this year making the playoffs will be even tougher.
The Serra League only has two guaranteed spots among its five teams. And all five – Alemany (5-1), Crespi, La Puente Bishop Amat (5-0-1), Loyola and Notre Dame (4-2) – are capable of winning the league.
"We've got our hands full," Mack said.
But you also get the impression Mack likes the hand he gets to play. That maybe Crespi can make the postseason, and win a Pac-5 Division playoff game for the first time since 2007.
Because the big boys up front are playing like Big Boys.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 04 October 2012 03:29|