The best way to understand the mindset of a Cranston West offensive lineman might be to listen to junior tackle Steve Ohsberg describe his favorite thing.
"The most fun is when you see a pile and your running back's getting stopped and you go behind him and push him for that extra two yards," Ohsberg said.
Some players might shy away from that, but a Falcon offensive lineman wouldn't dream of it. As key cogs in one of the state's most traditional offenses, their identity is practically stitched into their uniforms.
"Every play, it's just grinding right into people," said senior guard Damien Andrus. "That's our motto here. We've got kids who want it and just grind. And that's how it's got to be on the offensive line."
The 2013 Falcons fit right in. Despite heavy graduation losses, they've been molded into a strong unit that has helped pave the way for West's trademark rushing attack to hit the gas pedal. The Falcons have racked up nearly 700 yards rushing in just their last two games.
"They've done a good job this year," head coach Steve Stoehr said. "They've worked hard. We're not that big and they haven't been real dominant, but they've opened holes. We've run for a lot of yards this year."
Ohsberg and Andrus play on one side of the line, with junior Paul Biello at center, senior Dom DiSandro at the other guard spot and senior Jeremy Wilner at tackle. They had varying levels of experience coming in, with Ohsberg — who started a few games last year — at one end of the spectrum and Andrus — who started his career as a quarterback — at the other. But they've put it all together, especially in recent weeks.
"We were on the same JV team so we all knew each other pretty well," Biello said. "We know each other's strengths and weaknesses and that makes the teamwork easier."
They've also developed a bond that's typical of guys in the trenches.
"It's a brotherhood on the line," DiSandro said.
Their development has followed a familiar blueprint. Cranston West offensive lines succeed at what they do largely because of what they do. The program has a steadfast commitment to running the ball — and all the hallmarks that go with it.
"When I first took over as coach, we used to play North Kingstown and they threw the ball all over the place," Stoehr said. "They had these huge offensive linemen, but they were soft because they threw the ball so much. I think to win in November, you have to have a running game. That's my philosophy, and I think that's how the offensive line gets better. Our first day back at practice after last week, we're taking it easy on everybody else, and the linemen are hitting. That's what they do every day. They work hard. We run the ball every day in practice, we run the ball in games. That's who we are."
A tough-minded lineman couldn't ask for a better setup.
"When everything's working and everything's moving, it's fun out there," Wilner said.
There are times when it's not so fun, with a coaching staff that demands a lot. But it's all part of a process that annually makes a West offensive line into exactly what the program needs.
"You've got to be tough," Andrus said. "You can't be soft and play on Coach Stoehr's offensive line. He's going to get in your face and yell at you but he does it for a reason because he wants you to be the best."
These Falcons may not be the best unit the program has ever had, but they're getting it done. And they'd like to do it one more time on Thanksgiving.
"We've got to be able to run the ball down the field, so we have to do our part in that," Wilner said. "We have to play a perfect game."
- William Geoghegan