Saturday, November 27, 2021

No-name O-line has plenty of game at Mentor

Floriea. Daugherty. Mathews. Blizzard.

Most high school football fans in the area would quickly recognize those names as some of the top playmakers on Mentor’s prolific no-huddle offense.

Noble. Hazen. Strayer. Browley. Birchall.

Most high school fans in the area would have no idea who those five players are, but without them the previous four don’t produce yards or touchdowns for the Cardinals. 

Mentor’s offensive line is mostly an anonymous unit this fall. It may be a no-name unit, but the big boys up front for the Cardinals have plenty of game.

“They are all brand new this year, but they have done a great job this season. I am not even sure a lot of people know their names,” Mentor coach Steve Trivisonno said. “They worked hard in the offseason and they have gotten better each game this year. We are pretty complicated on offense and it requires a lot of different things and these guys have picked up what we want to do very well.”

Drew Noble and Kevin Birchall are the tackles, Reggie Browley and Alyx Hazen are at guard and Chase Strayer is the center for an offense that averages 438 yards of offense and 41.6 points per game.

After graduating five talented seniors on the offensive line from last year’s Division I state runner-up team, there were some questions in the offseason concerning this year’s unit. Those questions were quickly answered, much to the pleasure of offensive line coach Matt Gray.

“We had a lot of unproven guys coming in, and it is a young group that is learning and developing as a unit and as individuals all the time,” Gray said. “We knew pretty early on it would be a tough group. They work hard in the weight room and in the classroom and on the football field.

“It comes down to a mentality and these guys have bought in. We want to be a physical unit and play with the right mindset where we have a nasty, physical presence.”

Mentor has been extremely balanced offensively led by QB Jake Floriea, Eddie Daugherty, Alex Mathews, Jason Blizzard and others. The Cardinals have thrown for 2,721 yards and have run for 2,460. So no matter the play call – run or pass – the five offensive linemen are ready and eager to pave the way.

“Run or pass doesn’t matter, we just want to do our job up front and play football the right way,” Gray said. 

“This is a hard-working group that gets better every day and really that is all you can ask for.”

Browley, a 6-7, 340-pound transfer from Harvey, has emerged into an all-district guard. Birchall, a junior, was lauded by both Trivisonno and Gray for having the potential to be a big-time offensive line prospect. Noble has the most experience from last year, which was one start vs. Erie McDowell. Hazen and Strayer have both exceeded expectations.

As individuals, the Mentor offensive line might not be household names, but as a unit, they are definitely a recognizable group.

Just ask any of the 12 defenses the Cardinals have faced while going 11-1 this season.

“They have good height and there certainly is some size inside with Reggie, but overall I just like the way they work hard and have improved each day,” Trivisonno said. “I am not sure a lot of people know their names, but they don’t care about that. It is a good group we have up front.”

                 

Steve Harehttp://www.ohiovarsity.com
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes OhioVarsity.com, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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