Rock Bridge defensive linemen prove worth on offense

Friday, October 16, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 1:21 a.m. CDT, Friday, October 16, 2009
Senior defensive tackle Okoye West runs the ball for a touchdown during the fourth quarter of the Bruins' game against Riverview Gardens on Oct. 9, 2009, at Rock Bridge High School.

COLUMBIA — In what coach A.J. Ofodile calls “a game of matchups,” snapping the ball directly to a 280-pound lineman will present plenty of problems for opposing teams.

The Rock Bridge offense uses several offensive formations, such as the option and the wildcat, and has expanded what it calls the “Bruin” formation.

Friday's game

Liberty (6-1) at Rock Bridge (4-3)

WHEN: 7 p.m.

WHERE: Rock Bridge High School

The formation incorporates 6-foot-3-inch, 280-pound senior defensive end Chase Rome and 6-foot-1-inch, 275-pound senior defensive tackle Okoye West into the offense as two powerhouses in the backfield.

The team has used the formation at goal-line situations the entire season but began using the formation more liberally in the open field in recent games.

“It really gives us the chance to put our best personnel on the field more often,” Ofodile said. “It gives us that stabilizing force when we need it.”

Originally intended as a set for teammate Trey Millard, the “Bruin” morphed into a package to include the two linemen, West said.

“With only Trey back there, he was getting tired pretty quickly, so Coach thought we could make it a rotation between the three of us,” West said. “That way we could maintain the physical style of play and aggression that Coach wanted.”

After coming back from a 12-0 deficit last Friday against Riverview Gardens, Rome and West were able to pace the Bruins as they pulled away.

Rome scored his first career high school touchdown on a rumbling 3-yard run with 10:05 remaining in the game to put the Bruins up 29-20. Five minutes later, Okoye also scored his first career touchdown when he pounded the ball across the goal line to give Rock Bridge a 36-20 lead.

For Rome, the touchdown wasn't a big deal.

“Whether it’s the goal line or the 40-yard line, it's still the same idea,” Rome said as he pointed to different parts of the field. “I just have to be patient, wait until my blockers make a hole, then fly down the field.”

For West, the touchdown gave him a sense of accomplishment.

“It felt like I had to put in work to finally get to my goal,” West said. “And when I finally got in, it felt really good.”

Playing on both sides of the ball has shown West that offense and defense have two different methods of attack.

“On the defensive side, it's more of a killer instinct,” West said. “You have that go-get-it attitude, but with offense it's more passive-aggressive. You have to sit back, wait for the blocks to come together, then bam! You make your move.”

Although the two big men are spending more time on the field, neither thinks it makes them any more tired.

“I used to play on offense and defense all the time my first few years,” Rome said. “This is really the first year I focused more on defense, so the extra playing time is nothing new.”

“It’s really not that difficult,” West added. “Coach makes the practices so hard, so when we get in the game it's nothing. One game is like one half of practice. Plus with the rotation, playing offense doesn’t wear you down that much.”

West said he believes running the ball illustrates that linemen can do more than just block.

“I think it brings more respect to us,” West said. “A lot of people just look at us as big guys that can push people around, but this shows that we are athletic enough to do both.”

As far as matchups go, West said he is confident he and Rome give their team an edge.

“When I first got in the game on offense, I saw the other team and just felt bad for them,” West said with a chuckle. “Because I knew we were going to crush them.”

The Bruins play a home game at 7 p.m. Friday against Liberty.

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