BELLBROOK — Becoming an offensive linemen means you need to be a bit unique.
When you’re pushing people around all day like senior Braeden Turner, it sounds like you need to have fun where you can as well.
“We were at practice one time and I just kind of threw this kid to the ground and I ended up doing a handstand on him and it was a funny thing,” he said.
Senior tackles Gavyn Bunsold and Turner, two guards in sophomore Mohammad Al-Hawalat and junior Sam Vine, and junior center Vincent Hammel have produced plenty of chances for fun this season on the field too.
The five offensive line starters for the Bellbrook football team have been behind, or really in front of, the team’s success and have become one of the most successful groups in the school’s record books.
The Golden Eagles’ offense has set a school record for points in a season with 491 scored in 13 its games for a 37.8 per game average.
Running behind the quintet, senior Seth Borondy set the single game rushing record earlier this year with 356 yards against Franklin and is currently adding to his new season-long mark at 2,613 yards and counting.
Bellbrook in its last game against Tippecanoe in the Division III regional semifinals ran for 476 yards on 50 carries as a team and upped its rushing touchdowns total to 54.
“We love blocking for our running backs but not getting any recognition,” Turner said. “I love it the most because we get to see our running backs succeed. We get to do the dirty work.”
Turner, Bunsold and Vine are in their third-year as starters, and Turner and Vine were named as team captains this season.
“Gives me a lot of satisfaction seeing the mentality and the culture that we wanted to create here being a hard-nosed, smash mouth football team and that comes with being able to run the football well and play great defense,” head coach Jeff Jenkins said. “Putting up the numbers that we put up, we kind of met the expectations about where we wanted the culture for this program to be.”
Communication is key for linemen to get on the same wavelength and know each others’ roles. This group certainly seems to have that part of the job figured out, mentioning several times about no longer needing to talk to one another when setting up the play.
“We all talk after the first series to see how they’re lining up and we can just figure stuff out talking to each other then and on the sideline,” Al-Halawat said.
Added Vine, “[Coaches] do a great job explaining what we have to do, how to do it and if you do it this way you’ll succeed.”
So what does a coach look for in a linemen?
Jenkins used terms such as “aggressive,” “selfless,” and “nasty” to be able to succeed. But he also said playing through the action to the whistle and seeing the bigger picture of the team are so important to having success.
“Here at Bellbrook, we glorify our lineman on offense and defense and we know that that’s what ultimately wins us football games is those guys in the trenches,” Jenkins said.
Having size certainly can be helpful too. Turner is listed as being 6 foot, 3 inches, and weighing 330 pounds.
But size doesn’t solely determine how successful a linemen can be either, with Hammel being ragged on for his “170-pound” frame as a center.
“Me being 170 pounds going against these 300-pound huge men, I love it,” Hammel said.
The group will get a second chance against one of the best teams in Division III this season when it plays Hamilton Badin, the No. 1-seed in Region 12, in the regional finals on Friday at Trotwood Madison High School.
Badin won a non-conference game between the two teams in week two 17-7, and having already played its opponents once before may give Bellbrook an edge in knowing how some Badin players tick.
Turner said Hammel already was able to get in a Badin’s nose guard’s head during the first game and joked how distracting him is a legitimate strategy to be used.
“You’ve got to get in his head and make him do stuff that’s going to get him out of the play,” Hammel said. “I’m probably going to have to say something, but he’s a talker.”
Bunsold said he’s not a big talker himself, and couldn’t offer up much advice for him.
“I don’t really get trash talked a lot, so I don’t know what to say,” he said. “I just told one guy, ‘Hey, I really like your gloves.’”
The way Bellbrook sets up its running game sees others play significant roles as well.
Seniors Ashton Ault and Nick Etienne frequently help set up holes in addition to carrying the ball, and freshman tight end Jude Omiatek gets out in front as well. Turner said their contributions are just as important as his fellow linemen.
“We know if we sustain our blocks for a decent amount of time,” Turner said, “Borondy will break it, Ault will break it, Etienne may get caught after a while though. He can still get some yards.”
“It’s not a very big, recognizable job but we are a big part of the team,” Bunsold said. “It’s just honest work with everything that we do. It’s so fun when you just pancake someone, get up and you see that Seth is like 80 yards downfield. You’re just like sweet, we did our job. It’s a really satisfying feeling when that happens.”
Shoving opponents around is an obvious looking-point to determining a linemen’s success. And when you do it so successfully so often, it translates into having an enjoyable time wherever the trade can be applied.
“Yeah in practices we’ll pancake the younger guys and will swing on them and do stuff,” Bunsold said. “I pushed [Turner’s] younger brother down once actually and I just got off of him, looked at him and saw he was still going so I just jumped on him again.”
All in fun, of course. Such is the unique mindset of playing on the line.