Offensive line play is all about continuity, trust and confidence.
Ideally the unit will have at least two of these qualities each week and if all three come together then the dinners at Golden Corral are even better.
Red Mountain has had a mix of all three throughout its 11 games heading into Friday’s 6A Conference semifinals and the offensive line play is one of the reasons the Mountain Lions have won a school-record nine in a row.
“It’s been musical chairs at times with those guys,” Red Mountain Mike Peterson said. “They’ve been moved around and sat out, but it has worked. No matter who we put out there has performed well for the most part.”
Senior Julian Chism and sophomore Coston Cooley have been the constants with Chism starting out as the left tackle before taking over at center, while Cooley has started every game at right guard.
The rest of the spots have intermingled depending on the week based on health, effectiveness and experiment.
“We had to figure things out early on,” Chism said. “There was a lot going on, but each week we got closer to being who we are now. We built that comradery and trust you need.”
This week’s lineup will have sophomore Jacob Graham and senior AJ Mageo at left tackle, either junior Charlie Hola or junior Francisco Saucedo at left guard, Chism at center, Cooley at right guard and sophomore Ben Bray at right tackle.
The seventh-seeded Mountain Lions (9-2) will be depending on the unit to control the line of scrimmage against No. 15 Westview (6-5).
The Knights defense has allowed 13 points a game during its six-game win streak. Last week in upsetting No. 2 Desert Ridge, the defense held the Jaguars to less than 100 yards rushing and forced five turnovers.
The defensive front uses a lot of finesse moves – swim techniques and twists – to get free, and it is worked well over the last month and half.
“If we fire out hard and do our jobs we will be OK,” Cooley said. “We have an idea of what to expect so we should be ready for it. We just have to go out and perform.”
Red Mountain has averaged more than 215 yards rushing a game over the last nine games despite the lineup changes as athlete Lance Lawson, quarterback Cannon Griner, and running backs Ty McElroy and Alejandro Lujan have benefited from the battles won up front.
“We’ve really started playing as one line and not individuals,” Cooley said. “We had to get used to each other and how we play. Now we know, and it works out really well.”
Most of the starters will be back next year, and as is the case of the right side as Cooley and Bray potentially have the next two seasons together after getting plenty of time as a force as sophomores.
“They have a chance to be really good,” Peterson said. “They are big, athletic and physical. Bray missed some time because of hamstring, but when those two are together we are pretty comfortable running behind them.”
First things first is the rest of the 2017 as the linemen keeping developing and eating at the Golden Corral and China City Buffet together to create a kinship that helps them working well together on Friday nights.
“We are all brothers and hang out all of time,” Chism said. “We’re good. There have been different guys and lineups, but it doesn’t matter. Once we are in the huddle and we get it rolling we feed off that and stay physical the whole time.”