All lined up

All lined up

WESTVILLE — The halftime lead didn't sit well with Braden Buhoveckey.

So the Westville senior offensive linemen strode to the chalkboard with his Tigers only up 28-13 on Oakwood in Week 6.

"They ran a 3-3 stack," Buhoveckey said about Oakwood's defensive alignment. "It messed up our blocking a little bit. I figured I'd go in at halftime and show everybody how we're supposed to block. It helped a lot."

Yes it did.

The Tigers rattled off 28 unanswered points against the Comets, easily winning 56-13 and clinching a playoff spot in the process.

Fast forward more than a month.

Westville is still playing and the emergence of Buhoveckey, along with the rest of the Tigers' offensive line, is a key reason why Westville (11-0) will host Shelbyville (9-2) at 1 p.m. today in a Class 2A state quarterfinal game.

Head back to August and the start of practice first, though. Westville coach Guy Goodlove, in his 23rd season in charge of the Tigers, wasn't quite sure what to expect out of his offensive line.

Buhoveckey was the only returning starter, but last year's center was moving to right guard.

"We really thought it would be an area of concern for us," Goodlove said. "These kids have really bought into our scheme. They're one of the biggest reasons why we've had the success we've had."

Westville's offensive line — consisting of senior Bryce Rivers at left tackle, senior Griffin Dombroskie at left guard, junior Alec Schaumburg at center, Buhoveckey at right guard and senior Brandt Williamson at right tackle — isn't the beefiest in the area. Far from it. The starters average 190 pounds, with the 6-foot-3 Williamson the biggest at 230 pounds.

"We're not the biggest around, but we're all pretty quick," Buhoveckey said. "We all know each other pretty well, so we're really close."

Quarterback Duncan Hathaway, wide receiver Tylan Stricklett and running backs Cameron Nicholas and Owen Mariage-Tucker are the skill position players the Tigers rely on. But Hathaway doesn't throw for 1,193 yards, 16 touchdowns and only one interception without the steady production from the five Tigers in front of him.

Stricklett's 873 receiving yards on 41 receptions and 12 touchdowns doesn't happen, either, without Hathaway — who calls the Tigers' offensive line "the heartbeat of the team — having time to throw.

"They've really improved week by week," Hathaway said. "They've shocked a lot of people. They've just got this bond and this brotherhood. They've got each other's backs, and they're not going to let anyone touch me. I've got a lot of trust in them."

Nor does Mariage-Tucker rush for 1,063 yards and 16 touchdowns or Nicholas add 862 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns without the offensive line paving the way for the Westville running back duo.

"If we're not doing our job, then the rest of the team can't do their jobs," Rivers said. "We take a lot of pride in making sure they can get through the holes we put out there for them."

All of this has Westville on the cusp of the state semifinals for the first time in a decade. Not a bad way for the program's seniors — who saw Westville struggle through a 1-8 season when they were freshmen — to close out their high school careers.

"You always hear that defensive linemen are the guys that will tear the refrigerator apart, and the offensive linemen are the guys that put it back together," Goodlove said. "These kids have really formed a tight group and really take a lot of pride in what they do."