Archived Story

Leading the front line

Published 10:17am Tuesday, August 20, 2013

When opponents play against the Benjamin Russell Wildcats this season, they can rest assured of one thing: Big Brother is watching you.
In this case, “Big Brother” is senior offensive guard Michael Blake.
The three-year starter considers himself – along with the rest of the offensive line – to be the Wildcat enforcer. In addition to keeping playmakers Bryant Horn and LaBrenikin Johnson protected, he said it’s the O-line’s job to make opponents pay for coming near either player.
“We all know that if Bryant goes down, we lose a big part of our offense,” Blake said. “We know it’s very important to keep Bryant protected. That motivates us. We look at him and LaBrenikin as our little brothers. If anyone messes with my little brother, I take care of that, and if anyone messes with Bryant or LaBrenikin, we take care of that.”
In addition to taking care of its own, Blake said the team also has unfinished business to handle in 2013.
As one of the seniors this season, he’s planning to set an example for the Maroon and White, as the seniors before him did.
“In my sophomore season, we had a good group of seniors that set the tone for us,” Blake said. “That carried over to my junior season, and that helped us get more experience. This year, we’re expecting our experience and senior leadership to be big for us. Last year, Spanish Fort put us out in the third round, and we’re excited to get back to that point and beyond. We want to play 15 games instead of 13 this year.”
Of course, if the Wildcats play 15 games this year, it means they’ll be playing for the Class 5A state championship.
And Blake hasn’t forgotten what team halted the ‘Cats championship chase.
“I want to play Spanish Fort,” he said. “Anybody would be fine so long as we got to that point, but if I had to choose, I’d love to play Spanish Fort again.”
Blake, who sports a max bench press of 310 pounds and a max squat of 525 pounds, said physicality, in addition to sharpening his leadership chops, is pivotal this season.
“On the offensive line, being physical is one of the things you have to be in order to be successful, and that’s what I try to be as well as the other four linemen,” Blake said.
“The main thing is just being a vocal leader. Our center gets us lined up, but we have to make our calls, and I harp on that and remind everyone of their responsibilities. Last year, I was one of two starters coming back on offense and I slacked off in the leadership aspect. This year, I want to lead vocally and lead by example.”
In addition to that, Blake has every intention on destroying any and all defenders that line up across from the Wildcats this year. He said one thing he’d like to do is double his pancake blocks from last season (16).
After all, the chance to dominate helped draw Blake to the game in the first place.
“I’m a mauler,” Blake said. “I want to get out there, headbutt some people and make some contact. That’s the reason why I play the game. Technique is good, and it helps you out, but I like going out there and putting people on their backs.”
If Blake and the Wildcats’ front five are successful in the trenches, chances are the rest of the team will find similar prosperity this season.
But according to Blake, the team can only reach that goal by playing with synergy.
“We have to bond as one and come together as one unit,” he said. “It’s not about individual goals, it’s about us playing as one.”
See The Outlook throughout the month of August for player profiles of The Outlook’s Super-12 team leading to the kickoff of the 2013 season.