Center Robert Luke Jr. is informed of the impending snap count and play. He is the first out of the Charles Wright Academy huddle to meet the opposing defense as he struts to the line of scrimmage.
Luke stands alone, towering over the football while the defense is left to stare at his 6-foot-4, 321-pound frame.
The rest of the offensive line approaches seconds later, gathering around Luke in formation. By this time the defense has shifted its gaze from Luke to the skyscraper standing at the end of the line at tight end – 6-9, 265-pound Beau Iverson.
It’s rare to see two players that big and tall even in the NFL, much less playing for a high school team at the Class 1A level.
To put it another way: Seattle Seahawks center Max Unger is listed at 6-foot-5, 305 pounds. And no one in the NFL is taller than Iverson.
“They are so intimidating,” Charles Wright coach Mike Finch said. “We haven’t had a presence like that in our league since I started coaching. But regardless of what league you are in, when you have two guys that big, strong and athletic, it’s going to open some eyes.”
Both have played a big role in helping the Tarriers to an 8-0 regular season, the school’s first Nisqually League title in 23 years and its first state playoff appearance since 1991.
Charles Wright faces Montesano tonight at Clover Park High School in a first-round game, and it will rely heavily on its offensive line to pave the way for a power-rushing attack.
Iverson is mostly used as a blocker,. The Tarriers’ line averages about 6-2, 247 pounds per starter.
Luke said the strength of their line isn’t as much about size as it is technique and hard work.
“I never look at how big someone else is, I look at what I am going to do,” he said. “We are ruthless when it comes to hitting people and I think that is because we look at ourselves instead of comparing ourselves to other people.”
Luke, a junior, is playing his first season for Charles Wright after he transferred from Gig Harbor. He has not only been the anchor of the offensive line, he has dominated on defense at nose guard.
He has a blocked punt and four blocked kicks this season. One of them was the game-tying PAT attempt by Eatonville in the Tarriers’ 7-6 victory to clinch the league crown.
“I remember the admissions people brought him by my office last May and I had the chance to meet him for the first time,” Finch said. “They said, ‘Hey, Mike, here is a 3.8 (grade point average) student who is interested in coming to Charles Wright.’ He then shook my hand and I nearly collapsed because he gripped it so tightly.
“He is a big, strong kid.”
Tell that to the players that have to line up against him.
“Everyone is so undersized compared to him,” Finch said. “And any time you have almost 330 pounds driving you every single down, it’s going to wear on you regardless of how good you are.”
While Luke has made life tough on opposing linemen in the middle, it isn’t easier on the edge.
Iverson plays both tight end and defensive end for the Tarriers. Finch said the senior has been his most valuable offensive player. Not only can he handle blocking defensive ends and linebackers, he is also a prime receiving target.
His height and athleticism were on display in Charles Wright’s 27-20 double-overtime win at Cedar Park Christian on Sept. 28. With two defenders on him, Iverson leaped in the back of the end zone and hauled in a 25-yard touchdown pass in the second overtime to win the game.
Iverson said he is considering playing football for either Yale or Dartmouth next year while studying business so he can help his parents run their Ram Restaurant and Brewery franchise.
“He isn’t going to have the stats to make you think he is an offensive monster, and defensively he is double-teamed so much, but he allows us to be so dynamic,” Finch said. “A lot of people can be 6-foot-9, but not have the athleticism, not to mention have great hand-eye coordination. He has really opened up so much for us.”
Charles Wright has been known more for academics than football, but Iverson wants his school to be known for both.
“People think that we are such a small school and we are so academically focused that football isn’t as big a deal as it is other places,” Iverson said. “But we want to make a name for Charles Wright. You see some teams going to state every year and getting their name out there. We want that to be us.”
The Tarriers have found the formula in the trenches. It’s been more than Luke and Iverson, too, as ShiQuise Moore, Drew Vipond, Austin Harlow and Wunmi Oyetuga helped shape the offensive line into the most dominant in the Nisqually League.
“This team has been on their backs and they have carried us,” Finch said. “I’ve never been able to tell a guy to just block the man over you. It sounds so easy, but it’s really not. We have had to get pretty creative in the past and have a deceptive running game. Now it’s pretty straightforward.”
“Without those guys playing like they have, we would not have been as successful this year,” quarterback Fritz Jacobson said. “They fight and play hard every down of every game and we have needed them to do that.”