The machine that is Marquette Academy football will be in the shop for a small but major repair this summer, specifically searching for replacements of two vital cogs in the offensive line wheel.
The one that makes the whole machine go.
The graduation of twins Beau and Brady Ewers, both of whom as 6-foot-2, 230-pound offensive guards earned The Times All-Area Team honors last fall, has left that void for which MA head coach Tom Jobst and his staff will be auditioning candidates this summer and preseason.
“Guards are really important to what we do,” said Jobst, a longtime proponent of the wing-T attack. “We worked several guys in there last year as backups, so while I have candidates in mind, I won’t know until at least our camp in the last two weeks in July what we really have.
“We’ll work everybody and see who shines, and that will give us a better idea for the preseason in August.”
The Crusaders’ cupboard is far from bare. Returning are senior offensive tackles Aiden Thompson (6-3, 225) and Noah Barth (6-1, 250), junior center Stefan Swords (5-11, 210) and sophomore tight end Charlie Mullen (6-4, 175).
They, along with the Ewers, were a key part of an offense that posted 381.7 yards (265.4 rushing yards, 116.3 passing yards) and 41.3 points per contest in 2021′s 9-2 season.
With virtually all of the skill players returning – including senior wingback and reigning The Times Football Player of the Year Tommy Durdan (1,183 rush yards, 19 TDs; 19 catches, 8 TDs), senior fullback Jurnee Reed (867 rush yards, 12 TDs) and senior quarterback Alex Graham (61-112-1,290 pass yards, 17 pass TDs) – that area is set and deep.
While he admits his program has “come into seasons in a lot needier situations than” now, Jobst said that ideally he would like to leave those four returning linemen playing exactly where they have been, but it may not be possible. Finding one new guard in a position so vital to their plans is tough enough, let alone finding two.
However, there are several quality candidates with at least some varsity experience. The leaders appear to be senior Ethan Price (6-1, 190), juniors Andrew Hamm (5-7, 185) and Henry McGrath (5-11, 150) and sophomore Sam Mitre (6-0, 200).
However, don’t count out other hard workers like Luke Amicon (5-10, 170), juniors Will Carlson (5-11, 220) and Daniel Gutierrez (5-11, 200) and sophomore Tommy Walsh (5-11, 230).
“In our offense, we rarely take anybody head on. We’re always looking for angles,” Jobst said. “We have traps, we have sweeps, we have bootleg pulling, we have X blocks, so guards have to be not only good blockers, but also good athletes. They’re basically running backs without the shake.
“We’ve had short, stocky guys, tall guys, fast guys, heavy guys, so size is not necessarily as important as the ability to execute.”
The openings have so far created a lot of competition in even the earliest of summer workouts.
“We keep telling our bigger guys, hey, those positions are open, go work for it, go get it, go fight for it,” said Thompson, back for his fourth varsity season. “Even our spots aren’t guaranteed, so it’s fun to see everyone fighting for a spot, working harder than the next guy.”
Jobst and Thompson also are concerned about replacing the leadership the Ewers twins provided. Thompson, who will be called upon to fill his fair share of that leadership, agreed.
“The biggest part about losing Beau and Brady, aside from their size and strength, is their leadership on the line,” Thompson said. “They are the guys everyone looked up to, to every game and every play put out 100%, to look down the line and urge everyone to give it one more. We followed after them every game, and they were the ones who’d give you a helping hand.
“But I feel that the guys we have returning have the experience to step into those roles. With pretty solid guys up front and all the skill players we have back, honestly, I’m excited to what we’ve got. I think we have a huge chance to come out firing this season … and our senior class really wants to go out with a bang.”