Cox Mill offensive line sizes up the competition

At 6-foot-2 and 275 pounds, Bobby Santmyer is a big high school offensive lineman.

But compared to the two guards who flank his center position on the Cox Mill offensive line, Santmyer looks almost malnourished.

With teammates Ryan Matson and John Draper standing 6-foot-7 and 330 pounds and 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds, respectively, Cox Mill has a luxury of size few high school teams do.

The offensive line is the driving force behind the Chargers’ triple-option, no-huddle offense that averages 36.5 points per game.

Not to be forgotten are sophomore Andrew Pangrazio (5-8, 245) and senior Andrew Watt (5-6, 195), the athletic tackles that are a bit more mobile for runs to the outside.

“It’s really unusual,” said second-year Cox Mill coach Craig Stewart. “You usually don’t see that size on the front line. … If you’re a nose tackle and have 600 pounds bearing down on you play after play, that’s pretty tough. Hopefully it wears other teams out.”

This is the first season the five linemen have played as a unit. Senior Matson has been in the program four years, but none of the others were offensive starters last season.

Santmyer spent the first three years of high school in Virginia, living with his father; but he promised his mother he would live with her during his senior year, and that’s how he ended up at Cox Mill.

Matson, who played tackle before Stewart arrived last year, lettered as a freshman and sophomore. In 2013, Matson was named all-conference and all-state. This year, the North Carolina Prep Football News Yearbook named him a pre-season 3A all-state player.

Draper, a state-qualifying wrestler, played as a freshman on the junior varsity, which is where he opened as a sophomore last year. By the end of the season he was starting on varsity at noseguard.

Pangrazio, a sophomore, played on the junior varsity last year. Watt, whom Stewart describes as his “most aggressive lineman,” was being considered at running back before his coach relocated him.

While the Chargers primarily are a running team, led by backs Tyler Arnold and Devin Cobb, quarterback Hunter Longmire has plenty of opportunities to pass.

The senior shows his appreciation for his blockers by taking them out for unlimited pizza after games in which they do not allow a sack. To make it easier on Longmire’s wallet, they frequent an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Matson says it’s not unusual for him to eat 40-50 slices at one sitting. Once, at a burger joint, Matson says, he scarfed down 18 double cheeseburgers.

The three heaviest players – Matson, Draper, and Santmyer – say they don’t necessarily try to maintain a certain weight, although Draper drops about 25 pounds during wrestling season.

“People don’t realize the speed that we go is tough on those guys,” said Stewart. “After the ball is set by the official, we’re snapping the ball within 8-10 seconds.

“You’re wrestling with a guy that might be 280-300 pounds. The whistle blows and you’re sprinting because you have to find where the ball is and get set on the line.”

The linemen love the idea of barreling over opponents. Even if they miss a block, at the very least their size is bound to be a diversion to a defensive lineman.

“I love when I get to pancake someone,” said Matson. “It’s a great feeling when I get to run someone over, being I don’t have the ball with me. I’m making a bigger hole so we can all work together and get through the hole. I just love it overall.”

Matson is being pursued by Football Bowl Subdivision programs. He says the offers he had from the Charlotte 49ers and East Carolina currently are off the table because those schools filled their openings at his position. Matson said he attended camps at Alabama, Auburn, and Ohio State this summer.

Santmyer has drawn interest from Western Carolina after attending camp there this summer. Stewart said he feels sure Draper will get some looks this year and next.