Big ol' bookends
When building an offensive line, many coaches would like to start with a pair of bookend tackles. The left tackle, in charge of protecting the quarterback's blind side, and the right tackle, usually a strong run blocker, form the ends of the offe...
When building an offensive line, many coaches would like to start with a pair of bookend tackles.
The left tackle, in charge of protecting the quarterback's blind side, and the right tackle, usually a strong run blocker, form the ends of the offensive line, which is normally the key to any offensive success. They usually have to fight off a much smaller, quicker defensive end.
In the NFL, the standard size for offensive tackle is between 6-foot-5 and 6-7 with weight ranging from 300 to 330 pounds. In high school, they are rarely that size, yet they're just as vital to their teams.
At Dickinson Trinity, there's "Mort" and "Auzzie."
Seniors Michael Mortenson and Austin Fridrich are more than tackles to lean on. They provide the backbone for a partially rebuilt offensive line and the leadership that goes with it.
"They have helped the newcomers quite a bit," Trinity coach Randy Gordon said. "They're both captains."
Mortenson, the team's right tackle, stands 6-foot-3, 250 pounds and is a three-year starter at tackle. Though he was stable on the offensive line the last two years, Gordon said this year he's busted out of his shell.
"He's a much better football player this year than last year," Gordon said. "He's gotten quicker and it's helped being a senior. He knows this is his last shot and he's focused in a lot more. It's paid off for him. He's having a great year."
Mortenson said when he was given the starting nod as a sophomore, he was pretty green.
"It's a big step up from JV," Mortenson said. "It kind of helped being a little bigger, but it was definitely a challenge the whole way through."
Mortenson, an all-region selection last year, said he has worked on improving his leadership abilities.
"Just all around being a better teammate," Mortenson said. "Helping the younger ones get better, too."
Fridrich said Mortenson is at his best when he's got someone in his grasp.
"Once he locks on to a guy, they aren't pushing him off," Fridrich said. "He's the strongest of all our linemen. He's very powerful. He's been playing a long time and he's got the right experience and leadership to help the team out."
While Gordon noted Mortenson coming into his own this year, Fridrich's story is a bit different.
A part-time player at tight end as a sophomore, Fridrich moved to left tackle his junior season, hoping it would fit him better. The moved paid off as the 6-3, 230 pound lineman earned all-region honors.
"I would say that Auzzie really came into his own last year and he's grown quite a bit," Gordon said.
The switch to offensive lineman was fine with Fridrich.
"I liked it. It's more fitting for me," Fridrich said. "I adjust better there, I think."
Mortenson said Fridrich is the main ingredient in creating the offensive line's chemistry.
"I speak for the whole line when I say that he's a great guy and good leader," Mortenson said. "That starts the basis for our line having great team chemistry."
Fridrich and Mortenson's body of work speaks for itself, helping pave the way for senior Robbie Morey to rush for 184 yards in a win over Bismarck St. Mary's last week. However, the staples won't be together this week.
The second-ranked Titans (6-0) host Belcourt (0-6) at 3:30 p.m. today at the Badlands Activities Center and they'll do so without Fridrich, who could miss the team's final two regular season games because of a foot injury suffered last week. Gordon said he expects to have Fridrich back for the playoffs if he doesn't play before then.
"I think that's the smartest thing to do," Gordon said. "We know he's not going to like it."
Trinity travels to Bottineau (1-5) in the final week in a game that could be meaningless in the standings if the Titans take care of business today. They've already wrapped up a home playoff game and at least the No. 2 seed in the West Region. With a win over Belcourt, they guarantee themselves the No. 1 seed and at least a share of the region title.
The defense has given up six touchdowns in six games and hasn't allowed a TD in seven quarters. All six touchdowns have come from at least 45 yards out, meaning that while the Titans are susceptible to big plays, they haven't allowed a team to drive the length of the field and score on them yet this season.
"We've worked hard this week to make sure we're not going to look past (Belcourt) or do anything that's going to jeopardize the strong start we've had," Gordon said. "I hope the kids can step up and understand that."