During the football offseason, it seemed Center Grove’s longstanding reputation for putting a top-notch offensive line on the field might take a hit.
In typical Trojan fashion, a so-called empty cupboard filled quickly.
Players who waited to make an impact at the varsity level for the first time in their high school careers are being rewarded. The revamped line, once viewed as a potential team weakness coming into the year, is now considered one of the team’s strengths.
Credit former backups Justin Tolle, Skyler Spetter and a pair of A.J.s (Snow and Wiese). This quartet, along with holdovers Cory Heinrichs (right tackle) and junior Lucas Doyle (tight end), are part of a wing-T offense averaging 329 yards per game — 238.5 of those on the ground.
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Another senior, Gunner Lepper, occasionally rotates in to spell Spetter at right guard.
Last season, Heinrichs started at tight end, but he’s since been moved to right tackle. Most the other starters were backups whose only varsity minutes in 2016 came midway through the fourth quarter of games Center Grove led by a sizable margin.
After reaching the Class 6A state title game last season, Center Grove graduated 19 of its 22 starters. Offensive line wasn’t the sole concern, but it was a big one.
The guys who had been waiting their turn weren’t among those worrying.
Tolle, the team’s senior center, said it was simply a matter of applying what he, Snow, Wiese, Spetter and Lepper had been doing for years to Friday night.
“As an offensive line, we were confident,” Tolle said. “We had been on the junior varsity for two years and we were undefeated both years. It helps a lot that we’ve played football together since middle school.”
Snow, a 6-foot-5, 265-pound senior left tackle, remembers being a teammate of Lepper’s on the Georgia Tech team in Bantam League when they were fourth-graders.
Many of them played together in the Pro Bowl of the Center Grove Bantam Football League.
Asked which linemen are the strongest, Tolle gives the nod to either Heinrichs or Snow. Meanwhile, Doyle is the most talkative and Snow the quietest.
“There’s really not what I would call a vocal leader with the linemen,” Tolle said. “We all try to lead by example.”
So far, they’re setting a pretty good one.
The starting offensive line for Center Grove’s football team: