Byline: Tom Flanagan
COLUMN: DIVISION 3 FOOTBALL
When gathered as a group to talk about what it needed to improve upon from a year ago, Auburn High's highly touted offensive line rattled off answers that haven't changed much since the big guys up front donned leather helmets.
But soon after the rapid-fire listing that included nothing out of the ordinary - footwork, speed, quickness, etc. - the close-knit bunch looked at each other as if waiting for someone to say something, before senior Matt Ramirez admitted there was one more major item on the list of needed improvement.
"We need to be able to bring it on every single play," said Ramirez, who at 5-foot-10, 260 pounds would be a veritable giant on most local high school teams but is the runt of the litter among his behemoth teammates. "Against Shepherd Hill, we were outhit. They took it to us and they were tougher than us. It was tough to admit but it happened, and (Shepherd Hill) deserves all the credit for pounding us. We were embarrassed."
The Rams snapped Auburn's much-publicized 41-game winning streak, but the Rockets didn't lose again in 2011 and finished 12-1 and won the Division 3 Super Bowl.
Because its offensive line returned intact from a year ago, Auburn is a heavy favorite to win Division 3 again this year.
The Rockets can match up with any line in the state, with 6-3, 285-pound Aaron Dyke, 6-3 280-pound Steve Domenick, Jordan Giampa (6-2, 310) and Will Greelish (6-3, 330) paving the way.
Throw in Steve St. Jean, a 6-3, 220-pound tight end, and it's tough to envision any team getting the better of the Rockets along the line of scrimmage.
The linemen know, however, that size can take them only so far.
"I think we all need to be sure we're involved right to the whistle," Giampa said. "When we knock someone to the ground, we can't look down and think we did something. We need to get downfield and hit someone else."
As a unit, the Rockets worked out at least three days a week during the summer with a huge emphasis on movement.
"We're all enormous and that's great," Domenick said while trying to stifle a laugh. "But that size doesn't do any good if the kid across the line from you is faster and quicker and blows right by you."
The Auburn line has no bigger fan than senior quarterback Drew Goodrich, and that appreciation goes both ways.
"Our main job is to make sure nobody touches Drew," said Dyke, noting that he and his teammates always strive for an offensive line's version of a...