Clackamas football success powered by its offensive line
You've read about the quarterbacks.
You've perused the gaudy statistics from the running backs.
You've seen the spectacular catches by the wide receivers.
The 2021 Clackamas football team has produced all of those in droves while racing out to a 6-0 record in the Mt. Hood Conference and a 8-0 mark overall, and while rising to fifth in the latest Class 6A coaches poll and ninth in the OSAA power rankings.
But guess what? Without the big guys up front, without the hard work of the offensive line, none of that other stuff exists.
So, when fans gaze in wonder at the offensive stats for junior quarterback Blake Baker, junior running back Luke Ash or senior wide receivers K.J. Johnson-Gibson and Miles Williams, they ought to consider the amazing work done by the Cavaliers' front six.
That group includes senior tight end Kaden Ludwick (a 6-foot-5, 245-pound Colorado commit), senior left tackle Kage Casey (6-6, 280 and a Boise State commit), sophomore left guard Devin Brooks (6-4, 325), senior center Logan Chastain (6-1, 280), senior right guard Levi Jameson (6-1, 280) and senior right tackle Hayden Harlan (6-3, 275).
For that group's leaders, the team's success comes as no surprise.
"We've all been together since, like, eighth grade, except for Devin Brooks," Casey said. "We just have an insane amount of teamwork. We just work really well together."
"The biggest thing that I've seen (is that), obviously, we've all been through it since we were younger," Ludwick said.
Indeed, the line's combination of size and experience makes for a great starting point, but the Cavs' big guys have not rested on their past success. Indeed, they know that if the team wants to reach its biggest goals, they've got to keep working, improving and getting stronger every week.
"I think the key to our success is our chemistry — we're all super tight and play for each other," Chastain said. "We also all put in a ton of work in the weight room so being as big as we are definitely helps us as a unit."
"We just push each other to our absolute limits, and we're pushing past those limits every day," Casey said. "Competition is the best thing and (coach James Holan) is having us keep working in the weight room, even during the season. So, we're not taking a break, we're getting stronger even during the season."
"These guys are (all) hard workers, and all summer, they worked their butts off," Ludwick said. "(They worked) with the team, by themselves, and you can really see it coming together."
As to those gaudy stats that the Clackamas offensive line has helped facilitate, here's a brief look at what the Cavs' playmakers have amassed so far. In its six on-field wins â€“ the Cavaliers have also gotten two forfeit victories â€“ Clackamas has outscored its opponents by an average of 45-9.
Individually, Baker has completed 58 of 93 passes for 1,168 yards (an average of 195 passing yards per game), with 16 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Ash has racked up 717 rushing yards (an average of 120 rushing yards per game) with 12 touchdowns.
And on the outside, Williams has caught 21 passes for 469 yards and seven touchdowns, while Johnson-Gibson has made 15 catches for 406 yards and another five touchdowns.
The overall depth of the line and the daily competition that depth engenders have also played key roles in the Cavaliers' 2021 success.
"It's a huge deal. I play both sides of the ball so I'm going on defense against (Casey) — he's a beast and … we battle it out every practice," Ludwick said. "It's great competition, and I'd even say that some of our scout (team) guys are better than some of the teams we've been playing."
"Logan, he may not have the big D1 offers, but I think he's the hardest person I've gone against on run blocking — he's insanely hard to get through," Casey said of Chastain. "He's definitely our strongest guy … and he's just a beast. He's hard to move. We (Casey and Ludwick) might bring in the attention because we have the measurables, but a guy like Logan — he's an absolute grinder."
Importantly, the Cavs' "O" line is not sitting still. They're continuing to work in the weight room, continuing to mesh in practice and continuing to lift up their teammates and make them better, too.
"I think the group is better now than it was last year just because we've had a lot more time to play together in this offense," Chastain said. "We didn't have much time to learn the offense last year, but now that we got a whole summer under our belts together, I think that helped a lot."
Now, with eight victories in the "W" column, the Cavaliers are keeping their sights set on the year's biggest prizes.
"We want to go as far as we can take it," Ludwick said. "We want to win it all, of course."
"I honestly think we're a championship team and that we can definitely get there," Chastain said. "The key to achieving that is to get better every day, not take any days off, and just keep doing what we're doing now."
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