GREENFIELD — The Greenfield-Central offensive line literally speaks its own language. Cougars head coach Adam Sherman hears it all the time during practice.
Future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning’s may have his famous “Omaha” audible call, but Cougars senior left guard Jacob Hochgesang has crafted his own terminology, translatable only by the tight-lipped front line.
“He makes all our O-line calls. When I say that, I mean he makes up all our O-line calls. He names them all,” Sherman explained. “I catch some of the things they say, and I can’t help but start laughing.
“Bill Clinton is one of their O-line calls. We’re three weeks into the season, and I still have no idea what that means.”
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Senior right tackle Aaron Young describes the offensive line’s comical phraseology as a way to stay loose. While intentionally indecipherable to most, for the Cougars’ blockers, every expression shares the same meaning.
“We want people on the ground,” junior center Zach Kennedy said. “That’s our goal every play. We just want to get cakes.”
Through two games this season, the Cougars’ line has feasted while paving the way for an offense churning out astonishing numbers.
Ranked 11th in the nation for rushing yards gained, according to MaxPreps, Greenfield-Central’s ground production is fourth best in the state and first in Class 4A after bulldozing for 803 yards.
The 15th-ranked Cougars have racked up 11 rushing touchdowns — 13 overall — and are averaging 12.7 yards per carry and 267.7 yards rushing a game.
As a result, the program has posted its third consecutive 2-0 start after convincing wins against 2A Eastern Hancock, 42-28, in the season opener and 5A Bloomington North, 52-35, last Saturday.
A part of the Cougars’ success, Sherman said, goes to unselfishness of the “dynamic duo” of senior running backs Skylar Gary and Michael Sosnowski, who have combined for 592 yards and eight touchdowns. Senior quarterback Spencer Hert’s efficiency and game management has played a role as well.
The unique cast of characters up front, however, are the engine, Sherman and his rushers redirect without hesitation.
“They’re a group of guys that couldn’t be anymore different personality wise, and I think that’s why they mesh so well,” Sherman said. “When we got here that group of guys wasn’t what they are now. They’ve worked at it.
“Honestly, we came in here thinking we were going to throw the ball. They have changed our minds. Those cats get after it.”
Sherman considered installing a spread offense during training camp, but once the line gelled under the guidance of line coaches Stephen Speer and Jacob Mize, the team’s direction became obvious.
The Cougars figured out exactly what they had.
“If you look at the tape and review our plays, those holes up front have been huge,” Gary said. “We’re just running the ball. They do all the dirty work.”
So locked in on their jobs, the linemen rarely catch Gary’s and Sosnowski’s jukes, cuts or knack to shed would-be tacklers until film session.
“They’re finishing blocks,” Sosnowski emphasized. “The ball might be 20 yards down the field, and they’re still driving.
“But they do talk a lot.”
Coming up through the Greenfield Youth Football League, Young, Kennedy, Hochgesang, senior left tackle Xander Denman, sophomore right guard Hunter Gulden and senior tight end Lee Dullaghan call their friendship a brotherhood.
Sherman won’t argue. Like siblings, they are inseparable except by their disposition.
Denman is 270-pound “gentle giant” who can flip the switch with the same ferocity as Dr. Bruce Banner.
“When it’s time to go, he sheds that niceness and it’s business time. He’s the Incredible Hulk,” Sherman said.
The 235-pound Hochgesang is the comedian. Kennedy brings 286-pounds of savvy to the trenches. Gulden is a 240-pound warrior. Young, a 182-pound three-year starter, is the stabilizing force.
“He is methodical,” Sherman said of Young, who started at center last season. “He’s a high-energy guy, but purposeful. He’s the most business-like of the group.”
Dullaghan, who voluntarily shifted from a receiving threat to a stone wall, is the excellence of execution with a “mean streak,” “unapologetic” and polished in his technique, Sherman said.
Yet, collectively, they are pure entertainment.
“They’re just goofy,” Sosnowski joked. “But even though they like to mess around a lot, they get the job done. They make my job easy.”
Mize and Speer make sure of that.
Mize played for Sherman as a lineman at Walsh University in Canton, Ohio after graduating from Greenfield-Central. Speer was an offensive lineman at Marian University during Sherman’s tenure with the NAIA national champions. Both former college starters supply the group with the necessary know-how.
Now, they want to show the remaining doubters what they’ve learned.
“We got told by a lot of people that we weren’t going to beat Eastern (Hancock), and Bloomington North was going to beat us,” Dullaghan said. “People don’t really know what’s going on on this practice field and the intensity we bring.
“We’re just trying to prove we’re not the old 4-6 Greenfield (from 2015). We’re striving for great things.”
A win against Mt. Vernon to open the Hoosier Heritage Conference portion of their schedule would be a grand step toward their goal. Greenfield-Central has lost four straight to their county rivals, with its most recent victory coming in overtime, 6-0, in 2011.
“We have a whole lot of unproven dudes that are going out and proving themselves every day,” Sherman said. “They still hear it. There’s always someone saying something they can’t do.
“Whether it’s good or bad, we ignore the noise. They’re hungry for this.”
11: The Cougars running game ranks 11th in the nation, according to Maxpreps, with 803 yards rushing through two games.
4: Greenfield-Central’s total yards gained rushing puts them at fourth best in the state, regardless of classification, according to Maxpreps.
12: The Cougars are averaging 12.7 yards per carry after being held to 4.7 per attempt last fall.
110: Greenfield-Central is averaging 110 yards more per game rushing the football in comparison to their median production in 2015.
3: For a third consecutive season the Cougars have opened the year 2-0.
1: The Cougars 803 yards rushing this season ranks them first in Class 4A, according to Maxpreps.
15: The voters have taken notice of the Cougars, positioning them 15th overall in the Class 4A The Associated Press rankings this week.
192: The average weight of the six front line blockers for the Cougars with Aaron Young the lightest at 182 pounds and Zach Kennedy the heaviest at 286.
316: Senior Skylar Gary is leading the Cougars with 316 yards rushing, five touchdowns and 17.6 yards per carry.