MAROA — Anthony Campbell knows how some people may view Maroa-Forsyth's offensive line, a group that could be perceived as a undersized.
“All that people look at is size and think, ‘Oh, these guys aren’t that strong,'" Campbell said.
That, this group of lineman proudly boasts, is not the case.
“You look at those guys and their like, ‘Those guys are kind of tiny or whatever,’ then we come out and pop you in the mouth and it’s like, ‘Oh, wait a minute,'" junior Johnny Luttrell added.
Maroa doesn't have a player on the offensive line who weighs more than 255 pounds, but that isn't exactly a new concept for coach Josh Jostes. His teams aren't worried about having a higher combined weight or taller average height than their opponents. They care about speed, strength and technique. Something this team has plenty of, even if they aren't tipping the scales.
This year's group consists of Campbell, a 235-pound left tackle; Stone Sowa, the 220-pound left guard; Mick Applebee, the 255-pound center; Luttrell, a 220-pound right guard and the combination of Tanner Hetz and Reid Fitzpatrick, who are 200 and 230 pounds, respectively, at right tackle.
"We’re more used to this," Jostes said. "Our kids are more used to this. This is what our JFL teams look like. We’ve been growing up with this stuff. It allows us to run literally every play in our playbook and have some success."
The Trojans don't typically run out big, beefy linemen. In fact, most of the players Jostes has started at the tackle positions in his career would have likely been tight ends on other teams — Campbell being one of them.
Last year was an outlier, one of two Jostes has had as the team's head coach. Center Lane Ohlemeyer was 6-foot, 268 pounds and guard Tre Corely was 6-foot, 265 pounds. The only other season that Jostes had size like that on the line was the 2006 team that had 6-foot-3, 270-pound Andrew Mills and 6-foot-5, 260-pound Dustin Moore as the two starting guards.
“Last year we got lucky of course with that size," Campbell said. "This is kind of getting back to normal. Last year was a bonus. This year we’re normal. It’s not like it’s out of the blue."
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Of course, having bigger linemen provided plenty of success for Maroa. The Trojans won the Class 2A state championship in 2006 and were the Class 2A runner-up last season, but these players came up in a system predicated on speed and moving lineman, dating back to the fifth grade. Jostes likes to pull his guards and tackles and get them out in space to pave the way for his skill position players in space.
“It’s what we did in middle school," Hetz said. "Last year was definitely nice to have with all those big guys, but we have to get back to what we usually do this year."
Maroa has plenty of skill position players with the ability to break a big gain: Wade Jostes, Bryson Boes, Drew Hicks, Cade Culp and Xaveir Goetz. The goal is to get the lineman out in front of them to bulldoze a defender to let one of them break free for the end zone.
“Hopefully our little shifty guys can use those guys," Jostes said.
Jostes likes screen passes, in particular. With quick lineman to create space, those plays are more likely to hit for a touchdown.
“It lets us get to the outside a lot easier," Campbell said. "On screen passes, we get there easier. We’re still strong. Even though we’re undersized, we’re still a strong group. We’ll be able to block anybody."
By this point, opposing teams shouldn't be surprised to see a smaller, but fast offensive line for Maroa. Jostes & Co. have had plenty of success with that formula. For some, there might be an intimidation factor when pressed with going toe-to-toe against a bigger defensive lineman, but that isn't the case with this group. Players all but live in the weight room.
“We know it’s all about technique and getting to the right spot and doing our job," Hetz said.
Yes, the Trojans' line will look different getting off the bus this season than they did last season. No, that doesn't mean it's a step back. It's just a move back to normalcy.
“JFL we were always bigger and faster than everyone," Luttrell said. "With the pace and everything it’s back to normal."