Players like running back Blair Skilliter and quarterback Matt Bassitt get a lot of the headlines, but Genoa coach Mike Vicars knows that if it wasn't for the skill of the guys on the offensive line, the Comets aren't 11-0 right now and playing for a shot in the Division IV regional finals.
Genoa returned just one starting offensive lineman from last year's 10-2 playoff team but hasn't missed a beat. The Comets (11-0) had scored 545 points heading into Friday night's second-round game against Fostoria (10-1) in Fremont.
Offensive line coach Tim Spiess has taken tackles Bryce Humbarger (5-11, 215) and Ryan Bless (6-1, 190), guards Beau Lamb (5-11, 170) and Callan Bialorucki (5-9, 170) and centers Jake Murphy (5-9, 185) and Cody Vincent (6-0, 225) and molded them into a finely-tuned machine this season.
Only Murphy, who played guard last season, was a starter last year.
Vicars said Humbarger and Bless, both seniors, are good technicians.
"Neither one is huge for the offensive tackle position," Vicars said, "but they're very technically sound. Humbarger is very intelligent and he moved from guard to tackle, which is not the easiest thing to do. He just kind of fit that bill a little bit better.
"Bless started at defensive tackle last year and on offense he was a fullback. We had a lot of good running backs but we were trying to spread our talent out. He worked hard in the offseason and got bigger. We're trying to be athletic as we can, so to have a running back playing tackle, that's pretty cool."
Lamb, a senior, didn't even play football last season but decided over the summer he wanted to join the team.
"We found that he was a pretty good athlete," Vicars said. "Other positions were stacked with talent and we needed an athletic guy, so we tried him at guard and he's doing a nice job for us."
Bialorucki was switched from tight end to guard prior to the season because the Comets wanted to be more athletic and had other tight ends.
"We asked him if he'd give it a try," Vicars said. "Callan's one of the smartest people in our school and we knew he could be a great technician up there for us."
The coach said Murphy was moved from guard to center to fill a void there.
"We felt we could move some other guys around," Vicars said. "Cody Vincent moved in there around mid-season and has done a heck of a job for us."
Genoa's tight ends are 6-8, 225-pound Richard Wonnell and fellow junior Jon Lester (6-2, 180). Wonnell played tackle on the junior varsity a year ago, "but he got too tall (to play tackle)," Vicars said.
"We ask our tight ends to do a lot of reach blocking, and he's such a good athlete we thought he would be better served out there doing those things for us," Vicars said. "He's a good blocker. Lester is a really nice athlete. Jon had water poisoning early in the year and went into a coma for a couple of days. We were really concerned about him. He missed three or four weeks and then he came back for the Lakota game, and he was a huge key in our win against Eastwood."
The Comets' defensive line has proved its mettle as well this season. That group has been key to Genoa allowing just 67 points through 11 games.
Vicars, who coaches the D-line, said those players "are great scheme readers and they cause a lot of disruption of the opponent's offensive line. That enables other players to run free to the ball. They do a great job."
The tackles are Bless, a special mention All-Ohio pick in 2007, and senior Josh Hillabrand. Bless is one of the top tacklers and leads Genoa in sacks.
"His desire to get to the football is matched by no one," Vicars said. "He can get knocked down and he just finds a way to get there. We moved Josh from defensive back to defensive line because he's a quick, tough athlete."
Junior Devin Mazza and sophomore Justin Upham are both 5-7, 150-pound nose guards who more than hold their own.
"Mazza and Upham are just tough little wrestlers who understand leverage," Vicars said. "They're both really quick and cause a lot of problems in the middle of the offense."
The Comets' ends/outside linebackers are Wonnell, Lester and sophomore Seth Dufendock.
"Lester is just a really athletic kid, and he's quick and can really get after the quarterback," Vicars said. "Wonnell has great reach and keeps the opponent off him. He knocks down a lot of passes and has two interceptions, too. That's tough to do from a defensive end spot.
"Dufendock is just a nasty football player. He's mean and he really gets after you, and he's one of the more physical players on our defense."