Win or lose, offensive linemen don’t get much attention after a game. Many of them say they don’t mind that.
Whenever a running back breaks a long touchdown run or a quarterback has a clean pocket to throw, there are five players — both big in size and importance — making it all possible.
“I hope a lot of guys on our team don’t really care about the credit because as long as we can win the game, that’s all we really care about,” Northport 6-3, 250-pound lineman Sam Gozelski said. “We’re not looking to get our names in the newspaper or have people interviewing us after games. We just want to win, so that’s what the O-lineman should be thinking about.”
And Nassau I and Suffolk I both have plenty of standout linemen making winning plays. Oceanside, the top-seeded team in Nassau I, has Mike Scibelli and Vincent Schell largely to thank for that ranking, and the coaches remind them of their fair share of the credit for any big play.
“It’s very satisfying because your coach tells you it was all you,” said Scibelli, who is 6-3, 290 pounds. “He gives you all the credit and they made the run, we made the hole.”
It’s not just the Oceanside coaches that understand the lineman’s importance. Quarterback Tommy Heuer and wide receiver Dylan Judd have high praises for the players in front of them.
“It’s very comforting having those two guys protect you,” Heuer said. “It’s comfortable standing behind them and they are two good leaders.”
“I think we are going to have the best offensive line this year,” Judd said, “and it’s awesome having guys that love the weight room like that.”
Scibelli and Schell said they lift weights four days a week with the team, along with having personal trainers and attending college camps. Many other of the top offensive linemen have a similar work regime.
“I’ve definitely been pushing everybody on the team,” said Robert Fitzsimmons, a 6-4, 255-pound lineman of the defending Class I Long Island champion, Freeport Red Devils. “Linemen, receivers. I’ve been firing up the lifting, we’ve been getting it going.”
Some of the other top linemen in Nassau I and Suffolk I include Trevor Cahill (Connetquot), Matt Chirichella (Sachem North), Danny Carroll (Sachem East), Nick Golde (Floyd), Malik Grant (Lindenhurst), Tom Kutchma (Ward Melville) and Connor Payne (Massapequa).
With the physical play demanded at the line of scrimmage, there’s a common theme among the top players: confidence.
“Be very confident in yourself and say ‘Nobody’s going to beat me on this play. I’m the best out there and if I trust in my steps and do what my coach told me to do, I know I’m going to be successful,’ ” said Schell, at 6-5, 290 pounds. “If you go in there thinking you’re not going to beat the guy, you’ve already beat yourself. There’s no point.”
“I’m going to beat him, there’s nobody they can put in front of me that’s going to stop me,” Scibelli said. “That’s my approach.”
On the defensive side, not much beats the feeling of taking down a quarterback. Even at the dismay of his fellow position mate.
“I love making sacks,” Gozelski said. “That’s my favorite feeling in football, knowing that you just completely beat the offensive lineman and when you get up after a sack and your whole team’s crowding around you, it’s a great feeling.”
And as the passing, rushing and receiving yards pile up, the linemen celebrate alongside the ones carrying the ball across the goal line.
“When we see someone break off a big run and everyone’s cheering for them, we take credit for that,” Gozelski said. “We don’t need other people to recognize that because we know that’s what we do so when we see that someone has 300 rushing yards in a game, we take pride in that.”