The Saint Ignatius offensive line has some bonafide stars, but the Wildcats' Fraternal Order of Offensive Linemen is not about notoriety.
As the Wildcats' starters said during halftime of last week's Jamboree, the offensive line is better when they work as a fist rather than five individual fingers.
That's the mindset the Wildcats carry into the 2019 season.
"It's a position where all five guys have to play as one," said offensive line coach Paul Yappel. "To single out one individual is counter to the idea of playing offensive line. We have three seniors projected as starters, and those three have the game experience. They will be counted on to lead the way as the season goes on."
The three senior starters tasked with leading the way this year will be left tackle Nick Schwitzgebel, right tackle Tony Georges, and right guard Owen Keane. Yappel and his fellow line coach Adam Rini '99 are excited about these three senior leaders.
Having the three seniors back as starters is a huge advantage to start the season for the Wildcats. Entering the 2018 campaign, the Wildcats had to break in five brand-new starters, which led to growing pains early on. This year, the Wildcats have much more experience at the position to start the season.
After starting much of 2018 at right tackle, Schwitzgebel will transition to left tackle. The 6'3, 293-pound lineman is one of the most talented players on the team, a great run and pass blocker. The team captain has drawn college offers from Akron, Bowling Green, Princeton, Kent State, and Louisville. He's a man to watch on the line this season.
Georges is a similarly talented, dynamic player. At 6'2, 290 pounds, Georges can play just about any position on the offensive line, making him a valuable player. He filled in at a number of spots as the 6th man for much of 2018. This year, he'll slot in as a right tackle to start the season. You'll also find him as the backup center on the depth chart – Georges can also snap very well. Coach Tommy Zagorski at Akron loves Georges' potential, which is why the senior will be playing for the Zips next fall.
Keane started the 2018 season as the starting right guard, but shifted to a platoon role as the season continued. Keane again begins the season as the starter at right guard, but with one difference – in the offseason, he added 25 pounds, much of it muscle, to improve his stats to 6'3, 290. Just like his fellow linemen, Keane did plenty of work in the weight room.
Gus Salopek will make his debut as a starter at left guard. Salopek impressed with JV last season and did his fair share of bulking up in the offseason, attending 38 lifts during the winter. At 6'5, 240 pounds, Salopek is the tallest on the line, with plenty of room to grow and get stronger. The junior's ceiling is high, and it will be fun to watch him develop over the course of the season.
Ashton Montgomery is another bright star with lots of potential. He'll get the starting nod as just a sophomore, becoming the first since John Spellacy '17 to do so. At 6'2, 295 pounds, Montgomery is a beast in the middle of the line, not afraid to take on the opponent's biggest player. Montgomery blocked well in the Jamboree, once blocking his foe 15 yards away from the quarterback on a pass play. Montgomery will only get better over the course of the year.
The Wildcats' five starters to begin 2019 average out at 6'3, 282 pounds. That's a good-sized line. Not long ago, in 1950, a high school magazine preview lauded the Wildcats as the "Big Men from the North" with an offensive line averaging 189 pounds. The moniker still fits in 2019.
Beyond the starters, the Wildcats have several players who will contribute, namely seniors Ben Kormos and Matt Kall.
Kormos will start the year as the backup at left and right tackle after a great offseason. Strength and Conditioning Coach Anthony Rubino noted Kormos' excellent effort in the weight room. Kormos bulked up from 245 pounds to 270 in the offseason. At 6'6, Kormos will be more than able to fill a gap at tackle if need be.
Kall will begin the season as the next man up at left and right guard. The 6'1, 271-pound inside lineman can ably fill any role if need be.
A handful of juniors may also find a way into the mix, namely Connor Kinney, Carter Zimmerman, Jake Reed, and Christopher Speelman.
As Yappel says, it's not just the five men you see on the field who contribute. The second-teamers play a vital role, too.
"As the individuals who play offensive line come together as one unit, that will help with the success of the team. Regardless of who those five people are at any given time," Yappel said. "It's a situation where it's not just the five guys you see on the field, but all of the guys at that position who are working day-in and day-out to help each other get better. That team mentality is very important."
Heading into the season, Yappel is excited. His men have worked hard to get into a great position for the start of the season. Offensive line will be a position of strength this season.
"The group overall deserves a lot of credit. The seniors who have realized that playing football here at Saint Ignatius is a process of continual development, as underclassmen all the way up to their senior year," Yappel said. "That's important – working as a group to be selfless and coming together as one unit vs. five individuals on the field. Everyone has their role to play on the team and the offensive line is an important role."