Daily Herald's 2017 Season Coverage
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updated: 10/10/2013 2:53 PM

Credit the feet for Schaumburg's feats

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  • The offensive line of, from left, Alex Piotrowski, Matt Zolper, Matt Stopka, Justin Sanchez and Michael Bruno, is helping pave the way for a remarkable rushing season at Schaumburg.

      The offensive line of, from left, Alex Piotrowski, Matt Zolper, Matt Stopka, Justin Sanchez and Michael Bruno, is helping pave the way for a remarkable rushing season at Schaumburg.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

By Dick Quagliano
Daily Herald Correspondent

It is all about the feet at Schaumburg.

And since the Saxons offensive line moves their feet pretty darned well, Schaumburg running backs have plenty of room to glide.

In the first six games this season, Schaumburg's backs has had all the room they need, rushing for 2,184 yards, an average of 364 yards per game. Twice the Saxons have topped the 400-yard mark for a game.

Quarterback Stacey Smith, who leads the area with 1,029 rushing yards and Justice Macneal-Young , who has banged out 603, have garnered most of the headlines. But the duo is always quick to thank their line.

And thank them they should, because the undersized yet tough and quick Saxons grouping of Matt Zolper, Justin Sanchez, Matt Stopka, Alex Piotrowski and Michael Bruno has developed into one of the best offensive lines in the state.

"They are our backbone," Schaumburg coach Mark Stilling said. "The biggest thing about these guys is that they are grinders. They come to work and they don't care what they look like. They don't care what you think of them. They just find a way to get things done."

In this new age of football, where it has become pass first and run second, the Saxons are a throwback to an era past.

"These five are nasty," Stilling said. "We are a spread team. But with our line and the way our backs can run and how that line blocks for them, it is no wonder we are running."

The Schaumburg offensive line is small in comparison to offensive lines at Barrington and Fremd, and other lines in the past where running was the first option.

Zolper, who plays right guard, is the largest at 6-foot-2 and 275 pounds. Piotrowksi, who lines up at right tackle, is 6-1, 220. At center, Stopka is 5-10, 200. Sanchez, left guard, is 6-foot, 265 pounds and Bruno is 5-11, 180 at left tackle.

Just like anything geometrically sound, this line was put together in pieces. Zolper is a four-year varsity starter, while Stopka and Sanchez are three-year starters, giving Schaumburg continuity at the inside line positions for the past three years.

"The three guys on the inside have been together for three years," Stilling said. "And that is a good place to build off of."

Next came Piotrowski, who started last year and finally came Bruno, who is the only junior, this season.

It all began with Zolper, who has started 37 varsity games.

"It was little uneasy to start as a freshman," Zolper said." But I had my brother (Joe), who was a defensive tackle; and he helped me transition to varsity football real easy."

Zolper says the experience on the line has been the key factor to their success as a group this season.

"We have a good feel for each other," Zolper said. "We are around each other constantly so we know we each guy is going to do. This year has been easier because everyone knows what they are doing. We know varsity football, so we do our job and get things done."

Stopka says that the bonds between the linemen extend off the field as well.

"I was with a good group of guys," Stopka says. "We have been together for a long time. We work hard and have fun together."

Sanchez, who tore his ACL and still wears his brace, credits the team's legs to go with their feet.

"We aren't big but we got power in our legs," said Sanchez, who tore his ACL his freshman year. "I focus on my job, but it is fun to watch film and watch Stacey (Smith) take off and see how teams slide around him."

Piotrowski, who has been a two-year starter, says that despite being undersized, he and his linemates still can have great success.

"It is all about technique," Piotrowski said. "I just have to keep my base. We have a lot of chemistry out there. We hang out as much as we can outside of football."

Bruno, who is the only non-returning starter on the line, says that he has been welcomed with open arms by the other four seniors.

"I am the newbie," Bruno said. "It was strange at first coming in, because I knew it was such a great line. But throughout the season I have really felt part of the family."

Bill Lange, who has been the offensive line coach at Schaumburg for the last seven years and grew up and played at Palatine and later Iowa says that good footwork is the key.

"Offensive line is all footwork," Lange said. "We are not the biggest kids, but the thing that all of them have is really good feet. And that's why we block so well. The way they play makes me a lot better coach."

A lot better team, too. The Saxons are undefeated and atop the MSL West heading into their game tonight with Hoffman Estates, averaging nearly 38 points per game.

"Most of the teams that we face, these guys are going up against guys that are bigger than them," Stilling said. "They just don't care. They just find a way to get their job done."

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