I feel like spreading the love for the guys getting it done in the trenches. These guys get no love in the headlines, they don't have any stats that matter, they knock heads on every play and they might be the most important football players on the field.
Yes, I'm talking about the offensive linemen.
I'm going to point out some of the best blockers in North Dakota. So many times linemen get lumped together as a unit and rightly so. If there's one weak link on the line they all get blamed for not doing their job. I'm going to point out the best units and some individuals as well.
So I'll start in Class AAA where I believe the best unit is Minot. They have Dustin Adams leading the way up front. Adams has put on even more bulk and muscle tipping the scales at about 285. He's the top college prospect in the state and has committed to play at Hawaii next season. Adams isn't the only mainstay on the Magicians line. Porter Williams, Tyler Mack, Colton Razo and Brayden Soderholm give Minot a big advantage up front. You can't talk about 3A linemen and not note Century's Conrad Schwarzkopf. He earned all-state honors as a junior and will dominate again. Other AAA big guys to watch are: Austin Knutson and Clay Bachmeier (Fargo South), Bryan Bjerk (Grand Forks Red River), Eric O'Toole (Fargo Davies), Chris Sommer (Devils Lake) and Brandon Zahradka (Grand Forks Central).
In Class AA the top unit goes to Bismarck St. Mary. Mike Berger and Alex Herold are forces to be dealt with. Fargo Shanley also has an athletic line that features Matt Martino and Josh Berg up front. There are some fierce young linemen to deal with as well. Connor Rienets (Central Cass) is a name to remember. Rienets is just a freshman and is already getting looks as one of the top linemen in AA. Jack Plankers (6-7, 285) has the size and athleticism that makes college coaches drool. Jack has verbally committed to NDSU. Plankers moves opponents around for Kindred and could be the best in the class. Mark Koble (Minot Ryan), Eric Surita (Grafton), Josh Magnuson (Valley City) and Joel Green (Wahpeton) are others who get it done on the line.
In Class A the depth on the line shrinks so the really good ones are even more dominant. The top unit in my opinion goes to Killdeer. They have some big seniors back on the line but junior Brock Pittsley may be their best blocker. Velva also has a good unit but they are a little lighter up front. Jed Jesperson (Velva) and Myles Hanson (Velva) are athletic and can open holes and protect the quarterback even if they are undersized. Sophomore sensation Brayden Hofer (Larimore) is an up and coming star up front. Josh Farmer (Westhope-Newburg-Glenburn) is not just big weighing in at over 300 pounds. He proved that he can stay on his feet and move around well as he earned all-state mention last year. Others in this class that deserve recognition are Quincy Delaplane (Grant County-Flasher), Nathan Ling (Richardson-Taylor-Hebron) and Austin Winnegge (Langdon-Munich).
In the 9-man game linemen get overlooked because there are normally just three of them. But all the teams I have in my 9-man power rankings have solid lines. Coincidence? I like LaMoure's line with Cole Hesby, Trevor Alber and Logan Shockman getting it done in the trenches. Napolean-Gackle-Streeter is neck and neck for the top unit. The Imperials feature three guys up front who have earned all-region attention. Those three all weigh in above 225 and that size will help them move guys in the fourth quarter. Others to note are Spencer Robbins (Cavalier), Jacob Adam (Thompson) and Aaron Jordan (Shiloh Christian).
I obviously can't cover an entire state's-worth of linemen so post a comment about others who deserve recognition at a position of anonymity. I'll feature some South Dakota linemen next week.
For more about North Dakota High School Football as the season unfolds; follow me on twitter @AnderaMidcoSN or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org