Jacob Noonan and his four counterparts on the Black Hills High School offensive line appreciate their anonymity.
“We’re not looking for the spotlight,” Noonan said. “We’re just looking to do our job.”
The five players up front — Austen Daisa at left tackle, Tanner Ivie at left guard, Noonan at center, Justin Gudaz at right guard and Cooper Kerlee at right tackle — are the silent reason the Wolves have been able to rush for 847 yards in three games.
“It’s the nature of being an offensive lineman,” Black Hills coach Kirk Stevens said. “For years they don’t get talked about in the course of the game. And that’s kind of part of their motto — ‘All guts, no glory.’ ”
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The draw to play a position with little-to-no recognition?
“It’s mostly body type — except for Justin,” joked Noonan, a 6-foot-4, 300-pound senior. “We’re just a hardworking group.”
Gudaz rounds out a class of three juniors, including Daisa and Kerlee. Noonan and Ivie are seniors.
All five linemen are returning starters, which Stevens said adds stability to the offense.
“They know each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” Stevens said. “They’re a close group that hangs out together off the field, and teases and harasses each other.”
A lot of that time is spent watching movies or game film. During the offseason, they often went bowling.
“It’s more team bonding; we’re all one unit,” Ivie said.
Not that unity trumps competitiveness. Ivie and Gudaz debate over who is the better bowler — though Gudaz’s high score of 174 tops Ivie’s 160.
“Mine’s like 90,” Kurlee joked.
The jesting translates to camaraderie, which results in production on the field.
“It’s more trust,” Noonan said. “Knowing the guy next to us can get his blocks, and we can get our blocks.”
In their first three games, the Wolves have rushed for 11 touchdowns and allowed only three sacks. Black Hills has outscored opponents, 118-45.
“The offensive line helps lead that charge,” Stevens said.
The five linemen were leading Black Hills before the season started, as it won Eastern Washington University’s football camp competition this summer for the second year in a row.
“Last year we won the camp, but we won it on defense,” Stevens said. “This year, we won it on the offense. We were able to score consistently offensively, and that’s because we either had time to pass or we had the holes on the run.”
At one point, the line gave running back Jordan March so much room he was able to walk into the end zone.
“This is in front of the whole camp when it’s amped up and full speed,” Stevens said. “And the seam is so wide and the hole is so big, he just walked into the end zone.”
The creation of space has carried to the regular season, and helped lead Black Hills to a 3-0 start.
But the offensive line doesn’t need self-gratification.
“We’re just doing our assignments to the best of our ability,” Noonan said.
Added Ivie: “Trying to get the job done, doing it right and executing the play.”
Daisa jumped in with the quip.
“Making the little guys look good,” he said.
Lauren Smith: 360-754-5473