McCutcheon coach Ken Frauhiger and his staff go out of their way to challenge their veteran offensive line.
“We have come after them just trying to get pressure on them,” Frauhiger said.
Three-year starters Tanner Flynn, a guard, and center Caulin Post, and two-year starting tackles Nick Cox and Russell Berning anchor a senior-heavy front line. Ted Lewellen and Zach Griffith will also contribute at guard.
The Mavericks need a line that can adapt quickly. McCutcheon left behind most of its familiar foes in the Hoosier Crossroads Conference and will face several unknown opponents in the North Central Conference.
“It helps a lot, because we all have a chemistry and there’s just a sense of leadership there with the O-line,” Flynn said. “We all know what we’re doing and everybody works together.”
That togetherness extends off the field. The linemen occasionally convene at Wings, Etc. or Buffalo Wild Wings (sometimes at the treat of quarterback Aaron Phillips). The camaraderie translates to communication on the field, where the Maverick linemen say prior battles helped build trust.
“All of us have played at least two years, so we know exactly how each other blocks,” said Post, who did not miss a snap in the past two seasons. “We know exactly how much we have to help with this guy and then we can go get a different guy. We don’t really have to re-learn somebody that you’ve played with for so many years.”
Last year, most of these same linemen helped the Mavericks average 232 rushing yards per game. McCutcheon expects to be a run-first team again despite the graduation of Indiana All-Star Nate Deno. That obviously starts with the players making the holes, and the linemen say they’re embracing the challenge.
“We think we can get the same or more numbers with Blake (Elming) or with Levon (Thompson) or whoever we have out there,” Flynn said. “It doesn’t really matter to us. We’re going to do what we do best and that’s make holes for them to go and run through.”
Head coach: Ken Frauhiger (15-59 in six seasons)
2013 results: 4-7 (3-6 Hoosier Crossroads Conference); lost to Westfield 45-21 in sectional championship
Class: 5A, Sectional 11 (Harrison, Kokomo, Westfield)
Sectional championships: 6 (1976, ’82, ’83, ’94, ’96, ’99)
Regional championships: 1 (1982)
Semistate championships: 1 (1982)
Home field: David Ellison Stadium, 4951 Old U.S. 231 S.
Returning starters (offense/defense): 6/9
Rushing: Blake Elming (5-9, 165, sr., RB) 112-773 yards, 8 TD
Passing: Aaron Phillips (5-10, 170, jr., QB) 43-101, 774 yards, 6 TD, 6 INT
Receiving: Elming 15-371 yards, 3 TD
Tackles: Lukas Robinson (6-0, 190, sr., LB) 64
Interceptions: Cole Taylor (5-9, 180, sr., DB) and John Bonaguro (5-9, 155, sr., S) 1
Others to watch: Grant Dempster (6-4, 230, sr., TE); Tanner Flynn (6-0, 245, sr., OL); Caulin Post (5-11, 265, sr., OL); Nick Cox (6-2, 275, sr., OL); Russell Berning (6-4, 290, sr., OL); Haden Deaton (6-1, 165, soph., QB); Tre’Shon Heard (5-11, 180, sr., S); Levon Thompson (5-8, 160, jr., RB).
Outlook: The Mavericks have played for a sectional championship in each of the past two seasons. Will the North Central Conference open the door to McCutcheon’s first winning season since 2002, and can the Mavs make a deeper push in the state tournament?
Deno graduated and took 1,828 offensive yards with him to the University of Indianapolis. Elming, the former change-of-pace back, becomes the lead back, with Thompson stepping into a bigger role. Phillips returns with starting experience, but Deaton impressed over the summer, and Frauhiger believes both will be a factor. The four returning offensive linemen and Dempster should form one of the most experienced and talented fronts in the conference.
Another big graduation loss is Caleb Harper, a two-time Journal & Courier Big School Player of the Year. But the Mavericks are still experienced at linebacker —thanks to Robinson and Parker Caldwell — and at the other units as well. The four projected starters on the defensive line all return from significant varsity experience, and Frauhiger says there’s a solid group behind them as well. New arrival Tre’Shon Heard — known more for his basketball prowess — projects to start at safety.