It’s hard to miss them as scattered across Bonney Lake High’s football practices.
As they tower over their teammates on the Panthers’ practice field, the collective has taken claim as the top unit on a squad that exceeded expectations to reach the Class 3A quarterfinals last season.
Yes, Bonney Lake’s offensive line is quite a sight.
“The first day I showed up and I saw (how big) all those guys are — it was a very cool experience to see that these guys are blocking for me and not going against me, “ said Kaiden Hammond, who has been penciled in as Panthers’ new starting quarterback after transferring from Rogers High.
There’s a ton of reasons for Hammond to be happy as the new quarterback — mainly the fact he has a combined 1,840 pounds of protection in front of him.
“Some hydrogen and some oxygen,” joked Casey Todd about what has Bonney Lake linemen tipping the scales. “I don’t know. I think we’ve been blessed to get a lot of size up here. It’s definitely scary being one of the smaller ones, being only (5-foot-10). (Still) everyone one goes all out, no matter what the size.”
Last season, Bonney Lake coach Jason Silbaugh had arguably his best offensive-line group during his tenure, where linemen mauled opponents, helping a trio of running backs rush for a combined 3,053 yards.
The Panthers’ line was great one year ago. This year, it might be even better.
“This is the biggest group of guys I’ve had since coming here. It’s special to have guys with their size “ Silbaugh said.
They key to that group was a “skinny” right tackle who somehow outplayed his size, as he earned a News Tribune first-team nod: Caleb Davis.
“We have some big boys on the team. That’s for sure,” Davis said.
Since then, Davis has rapidly grown into a bear on the field, as the senior enters the season at 6-foot-4 and 285 pounds — roughly 50 pounds more than he was at the end of last season. But Davis isn’t the aberration on the Panthers’ offensive line, he’s the norm. Bonney Lake’s starting seven’s average height is about 6-foot-1, and the average weight is 263 pounds.
“We got a really good line coming in, and we’re expecting good things this year,” Christian Mack said. “I (even) feel we got better, because the people who were here last year (gained experience) and the people coming have been amazing, too.”
Having one player Davis’ size is a gift for a coach. Having seven, well that’s just like winning the lottery.
“We are blessed to have them,” Silbaugh added. “We don’t view it like we have five starters, like you’ll typically see. We view that we have seven guys listed as our starters. We hold the same expectations no matter if you started the game or if you come in off the sidelines.”
Bonney Lake suffered two blows last season. First, the Panthers lost starting quarterback Dane Wagner at the start of the season. One week later, his backup went down, completely wiping out the Panthers’ passing game.
Bonney Lake became one dimensional — run on first down, then lather, rinse and repeat. It became too obvious what the Panthers wanted to do, so defenses brought the house take the running game away.
But there’s nothing opponents could do to stop Bonney Lake from achieving what it desired in the trenches.
“I guess all the talk about us not being able to go far (in the playoffs) — I think that fueled us and made us want to continue (our success),” Davis said. “Our running backs are great and they help us out. But we have a solid offensive line, and we were young last year. We’re hoping to come back and be even better.”
And if Bonney Lake’s size on the line helps the Panthers bully opponents from game to game as they attempt their claim the inaugural Pacific Coast League championship, well, that’s what is expected.
Meet Bonney Lake’s offensive line
▪ Brandon Hoffman, 6-foot-2, 235 pounds, LT: One of the rare players to claim he’s “lost” a few pounds this off-season. Hoffman has dropped 10 pounds since the end of last year.
▪ Casey Todd, 5-foot-10, 230 pounds, LG: The smallest can sometimes have the heaviest punch, and that’s what Todd provided for Bonney Lake last season.
▪ Christian Mack, 6-foot-3, 305 pounds, C: With a heart as big as his stomach, “C-Mack” has been the leader of this unit, helping drive this unit both on and off the field.
▪ Junior Oliva, 6-foot-2, 250 pounds, RG: Coming back from a season-long knee injury, there’s a lot of determination from the player coach Jason Silbaugh believes can have one of the biggest impacts on the season.
▪ Caleb Davis, 6-foot-4, 285 pounds, RT: All-league selection. All-area selection. Nothing but domination came from Davis his junior season. He seems destined to reach Division I play at the next level.
▪ Sam Peterson, 5-foot-10, 240 pounds, C: Arguably the quickest guy on the line, Peterson is invaluable to Bonney Lake’s success on the line as it rotates guys in and out.
▪ Josh Thompson, 6-foot-5, 295 pounds, T/G: As the biggest guy off the bench, Thompson has been described as a mauler by Silbaugh. He gives the team depth in multiple spots along the line.