They prod, cajole and annoy each other — bickering, arguing, joking.
But Mission Prep’s offensive line unit is as close as it gets.
The starting five of Forrest Pottmeyer, Brendan Ikeda, Joseph Casacca, Shereef Wahba and Zach Adams are the unsung heroes in helping standout running back Patrick Laird to his 3,068 rushing yards and 32 touchdowns this season.
They’ve been a much improved and important piece to the puzzle in the Royals’ championship run this season.
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Mission Prep’s CIF-Southern Section Northeast Division title game takes place Saturday at 7 p.m. against Salesian in Los Angeles. The game will be streamed live on foxsportswest.com’s Prep Zone.
And it isn’t an accident that they’re so good at opening up gaps to give Laird chances to bust loose for big gains.
They dedicated themselves to the weight room over the summer and honing their blocking technique.
Wahba bench-pressed the most of the bunch at 280 pounds, but Adams reached 275 pounds, and Pottmeyer topped out at 270.
They’ve pumped iron to improve strength and focused on quickness in their footwork drills.
It’s their dedication, goofiness, and tight-knit friendship that makes Mission Prep head coach Chad Henry smile when trying to describe them.
“They’re like the old-wives club,” Henry said. “They’re around each other so much. They bicker with each other. They push each other. But at the same time, they really care about each other and take a lot of pride in what they do.”
In the past, Mission Prep’s offensive linemen didn’t have the same sense of satisfaction and work ethic this group has.
“We’re all really good friends,” Pottmeyer said. “We worked out together all offseason. Laird, too. He brings us food. He brought us cinnamon rolls.”
Under line coach Rich Seubert, a former NFL offensive lineman with the New York Giants, the unit has gained a sense of unity and enjoyment in playing their positions.
Seubert, a bit of a practical joker himself, prods them, pushes them, and challenges them to be the movers and shakers on the field.
“He tells us stories about his O-line days with the Giants,” Wahba said. “We can relate to him. He was undersized. He had to fight for everything. But he brought that extra level of intensity.”
Seubert helps the players with strategic planning and to recognize how defenses are setting up against them. The in-game adjustments they’re making now come quicker than in the past.
Last week against Desert, the rush was coming from the outside initially, so they adjusted to the inside running game.
For Ikeda, the smallest of the bunch, Saturday’s game marks his first shot at a division final. He was last year’s starting center but suffered a season-ending ACL injury. He has overcome a torn tendon and concussion, as well.
Adams, at 6-foot-3, is the tallest of the bunch. All the work he has put in has meant dropping about 30 pounds from 280 to improve his quickness. He was the only player who didn’t see starting time last year.
Casacca, who provides the “unintentional comedy,” according to Henry, said this year has been fun because the team has been able to stay on the field more after transitioning from a pass-heavy offense to a run game.
“Last year, we’d get a touchdown pass and go sit on the bench for 10 minutes waiting to get back on,” Casacca said. “This year, we get to do more.”
Henry said that the offensive line has thrived with more run blocking. They’ve been rewarded with deep-dish pizza by the team for a particularly strong rushing game this year.
“I remember last year when we were throwing the ball so much, Rich and I would get into it at times a little because he wanted to run in certain situation,” Henry said. “This year, they’re seeing Laird get all these yards, and they’re honestly excited for him. When they see his highlights, they’re just as excited for him as if they did it themselves.”