Knights are first in line

Tom Batters
Jordan Snider takes a break during a 35-7 win over Moline. Snider and his fellow linemen controlled the line of scrimmage for the entire game.

Matt Ernst knows that his name will not appear in the newspaper very often. He will probably never score a touchdown, or even get his hands on the ball, but that doesn’t matter.

Ernst, a senior offensive lineman on the undefeated Richwoods football team, said he and his fellow linemen get enough satisfaction every time their blocking leads to a touchdown. It’s OK to them if the PA announcer doesn’t mention their name even once.

“We just get after it on every single play, and we want to get a big first down or touchdown on every play,” Ernst said. “We don’t get mentioned much, but we get just as charged up when somebody scores a touchdown. We know when we’ve done our job, and the coaches know it, too.”

So far this season, the Richwoods offensive and defensive lines have dominated the line of scrimmage. On offense, that means holes for fullbacks Danny Ardis, Tyler Willis and Kody Grinslade. On defense, it means a punishing attack in which three or four players gang up on opposing running backs and smash them to the ground for little or no gain.

Richwoods held Moline to just 32 rushing yards Friday during a 35-7 win. The Knights rushed for 249 yards. Ardis, Grinslade, and quarterback Michael Davis all ran for touchdowns.

The offensive line routinely pushed back the Moline defensive line and toppled defensive linemen to their backs. But, there is more to it than that, Ernst said.

Depending on which play is called from the sidelines, each lineman runs a specific “blocking scheme” in unison with the other linemen so the quarterback is protected and the running lane is open.

“We work hard in practice,” Ernst said. “Everybody is on the same page. It helps that most of us have played together for four years.”

Josh Dehm, a senior who plays on the offensive and defensive lines, does not get much of a break during the game, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“This is what Richwoods football is all about. You line up and beat the other team with hard work,” he said. “We go through extensive conditioning in practice, so we're ready.”

Lee Nelan, a senior defensive linemen who made the all-conference team last year, said the intensity on the Richwoods line is turned up higher than most other teams.

“The whole line plays every play like it is the most important play of the game. Nobody lets up for a second,” he said. “When we get a three-and-out (holding the other team to just three plays on offense), it’s a great feeling.”

Nelan said Moline, which featured a unique “wishbone” offense, was a very good offensive team, but the Knights’ line shut them down.

“Coach (Dave Lang) prepared us so well,” he said. “We knew what they were going to try to do, and we stopped them.”

Other members of the Richwoods lines include: Cody Flora, Preston Lees, Jordan Vollmer, Steve Shipp, Jake Hoelzel, Jordan Valeriano, Noah Tornow, Matt Batton, Jordan Snider, Brandon Jackson, Pat Langan, Grant Dailey, Eric Burrows, Shashank Reddy, Cameron Thomas and Austin Davis.

“There isn’t one star,” Neelan said. “Everybody plays together as a team.”