Offensive line was strong point for Bulldogs the entire season
BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS Northern Lehigh's Mike Buresh (left) and Nick Hartman (72) get set to block North Schuylkill's Kody Flail.
High school football games are won and lost on the line of scrimmage.
Northern Lehigh's play on the line of scrimmage was a big reason it won 10 games this season and earned a spot in the District 11 title game.
The Bulldogs' have the Colonial League's leading rusher and the top ball carrier in the Times News area in Cody Remaley. The junior running back ran for 2,155 yards on 354 carries this year thanks in part to the line in front of him, which featured 12 years of experience among the five interior linemen.
"They were all seniors and we just tried to work hard week in and week out," said Bulldog offensive line coach Mark Hoffman. "They were a great team, nice kids. They did what you asked of them. And they came to play."
Northern Lehigh's offensive line returned four of five starters from last year. Left guards Christian Freudenberger, left tackle Brandon Mohrey and center Andy Hoch returned this year for their third year as starters. Right tackle Nick Hartman came back for a second year while Daniel Heummer filled in a vacancy at the right guard spot.
The run to this year's district title game began last year. Less than 24 hours after losing to Palmerton to finish off a 4-6 season the Bulldogs were back at work.
"That Saturday, me and a couple linemen were in the weight room working hard," said Feudenberger, who is planning to attend either Johns Hopkins, Princeton or the Naval Academy.
The linemen don't mind working hard and being the unsung heroes of the team. They're not looking to get their names in the headlines. When the team piles up the yardage, they know they are a big part of that. They know they're part of the single-season rushing record Remaley set this year. And for his part, Remaley is always quick to hand credit to the linemen.
"This team this year, we're brothers in arms," said Freudenberger. "When the backs get all those yards they get up on us and say good job. We slap their hands, slap their behinds. No one takes all the credit. It's a team. It's a family."
"We know we're part of it too," said Brandon Mohrey.
Running mostly straight forward behind its veteran line, Northern Lehigh posted 3,407 rushing yards this season on 589 carries, 5.7 yards per carry, a TN area high.
Freudenberger and Mohrey, both playing on the left side, were the leaders and anchors of the line this season.
"When we needed something," Tout said. "We were going to go at Freudenberger and Mohrey.
"This year we had a lot of experience," Mohrey said. "So we knew what we were doing."
Hoch, another pillar up front, calls the blocking assignments.
Hartman was the line's most-improved player this year. As a junior in 2008 his inexperience showed at times. But this season he became a force up front.
"He really just got so much better," Tout said. "He really took it upon himself to improve."
Heummer earned the starting spot during training camp.
"We didn't know who was going to play right guard for us," Tout said. "Daniel has been in our program for four years. He really wanted to start there."
Those weren't the only people blocking. When the Bulldogs run the ball, everybody hits somebody. Tight ends Mike Buresh and split end Joe Seremula also did their part, as did blocking backs Matt Gill, Hunter Grol and Kirk Bender.
The five interior linemen, and all the Bulldog seniors, played their final game last Saturday, a 33-26 loss to North Schuylkill in the District 11 Class AA title game.
Next year Tout and Hoffman will have to replace all five interior linemen, which is something they are not looking forward to. It's not that they don't think they can find five guys to play well in those spots. But they'll miss working with the five guys who helped make the 2009 district playoff run possible not only with their physicality, but also with their work ethic and positive attitude.
"The biggest thing, and I told them," Tout said. "Is that it's always been a pleasure. With that group, I've never, ever heard any talking back. They never roll their eyes. Everything is 'Yes coach.' It makes it such a good experience."