Del Oro’s o-line delivers

Eagles’ unsung unit paves the way for more than 47 points per game
By: Eric J. Gourley, Journal Sports Writer
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LOOMIS — Doug Warner likens the thankless role of his offensive linemen to the nature of emergency work. “They’re like firemen or cops,” said Warner, a 12th-year assistant coach at Del Oro High. “I don’t know a situation when a cop comes home after work and his family gives him a standing ovation. We’re really here to serve and protect.” The Golden Eagles’ front seven have been stellar in paving the way for tailback Bryce Pratt and providing pass protection for quarterback Max Magleby. Pratt reached the 1,000-yard plateau in Del Oro’s 60-0 rout of Vintage last week. Magleby hasn’t been sacked this season as the Eagles enter tonight’s crucial Sierra Foothill League opener with Granite Bay unblemished at 5-0. “It’s remarkable,” said offensive coordinator Jeff Dietrich. “You’ve already got a 1,000-yard rusher. That’s a lot of teams’ benchmark for the whole season. These guys were pretty ecstatic to get it in five games.” The group is a major factor in Del Oro’s scoring average of 47-plus points per game. “We’re definitely proud of it,” said weak tackle Jon Root, the Eagles’ best pass protector and a strong downfield blocker. “It’s a whole line effort. It’s not just a couple people doing their job. Whatever we can do to help the team.” Pratt jumps at every opportunity to praise the work of his linemen. He regularly stays after practice to run hills alongside his blocking brigade. “They just open the holes up front so well,” Pratt said. “Anybody could get through them.” Del Oro’s unsung heroes don’t mind being overlooked. “They’re only going to know you if you have a holding penalty or you get a clip or let a guy get sacked,” Warner said. “Everybody’s going to know you then, but if you do your job, they’re probably never going to know you.” Strong guard Travis Doupnik is the only returning starter with a full season of experience. Root was promoted to a starting role midway through an injury-plagued 2008 campaign. Nick Zieour started the first four games at guard before he suffered a season-ending knee injury in a 38-13 win over Merced on Oct. 2. Junior Dustin Mollard has filled in admirably and will start at quick guard the remainder of the season. Center Eddie Love and strong tackle Ryan Cope, a 6-foot-4, 300-pound junior, have also been instrumental inside. Tight ends Adrian Williams and Spencer Butterfield are new on the offensive line this year. The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Williams started on the defensive line as a junior and has evolved into a versatile bruiser on the other side of the ball this season. Williams has 11 catches for 165 yards and three touchdowns and his 22 tackles are third-best on the defense. Butterfield has made a selfless transformation from star wide receiver, a spot in which he racked up a team-high 710 yards a year ago. “Spencer accepted his role as a guy who has to mix it up on the line for the team to be successful,” Dietrich said. “He’s not catching nine balls a game anymore but what he’s doing helps us win.” Del Oro’s line is as cerebral as it is altruistic. Skilled zone blocking and relentless double-teams characterize the Eagle offense. “A lot of these guys are 3.5 and 4.0 GPA guys,” Warner said. “They’re all smart guys. Going into a week, we could run one play but we may have six different fronts and six different blitz combinations. If you add that all up, you’re in 12 different scenarios for one play. You add that to 20 plays, so now you’ve really got over 200 things you need to learn. They have to be very thoughtful guys.” Every Sunday afternoon, the group gathers at Warner’s home to unwind over pizza and video games. At the season’s first get-together, the 6-foot-2, 245-pound Doupnik beat his fellow blockers in a cannonball contest to win a case of bubble gum. Warner’s family sat poolside with large score cards, rating each splash from one to 10. At 6-foot-6 and a lanky 200 pounds, Root earned the lowest mark from Warner’s daughter. “It definitely didn’t help being the smallest guy in the contest,” he said with a laugh. “It’s a lot of fun, something you look forward to on the weekend. It’s a good to get away from football, to clown around with the guys and just have fun. You know offensive linemen usually don’t have the best voices, so it’s pretty funny playing Rock Band and hearing a bunch of guys sing. It’s great team-building.” Doupnik has attended Warner’s gatherings since the coach began hosting them last season. The afternoons continue to facilitate camaraderie that pays dividends on the football field. “The line is kind of like a team within a team, so if you aren’t all brothers in a sense then it’s not going to work,” Doupnik said. “Nothing works if you just want to watch out for yourself. You all need to block in a scheme so you have to be unselfish and put it out for your friend. Bryce is our friend, and you make sure of that, because it’s a lot easier to block for a friend than just a teammate.”