ROY — Tuesday was an interesting day for Roy football player Drake Hamblin. At lunch, he drove from Roy High to South Ogden so he could vote in the midterm election.
“I was smiling the whole time. I was excited. I was the only one in there smiling, everybody’s looking at me weird,” he said.
After school, he was at football practice as the Royals gear up for Friday’s 5A state semifinal. If you cast your eye to the offensive line drills, you’ll see Hamblin at left guard, and a striking contrast between him and the left tackle, Zack Mendoza.
Hamblin said he’s 5-foot-10, 230 pounds with cleats on, standing on his tip toes. Mendoza, the left tackle, said he’s 6-foot-6, 280 pounds. The sight of them standing next to each other is ...
“It’s always quite funny, I’ve had a lot of people talk to me about the way they look physically on the left side,” offensive line coach Jake Francks said.
Together, they form an unorthodox offensive line arrangement. When viewed from in front or behind, Roy’s O-line sort of resembles a capital ‘W.’
Mendoza and Hamblin, both seniors, draw off of each other in multiple ways. For starters, Hamblin is a bit more relaxed playing at left guard with Mendoza next to him since Hamblin has a ton of responsibilities.
When the Royals run the ball, they’re basically a Wing-T offense, which features a ton of trap, misdirection and sweep plays that are aided by a guard pulling to one side or another.
So they need smaller, quicker guards to be able to take the responsibility of not only pass blocking and normal run blocking, but pulling as well.
Enter Hamblin, wearing a Hulk headband that symbolizes his playing style on the field, a 4.0 student off the field.
“I have to be a lot meaner and a lot faster, I’ve had to definitely get in the weight room and get as strong as I can. I hate when people are stronger than me, so I definitely work out a lot in the weight room,” he said.
“I’ve never gone against somebody smaller than me.”
Hamblin wants to go into aerospace engineering and has the attention of Division III colleges that happen to have football programs to pair with stellar engineering schools.
Here’s how Francks summed up Mendoza’s impact on how Hamblin plays.
“Offensive line is very much like a body, like an organism. If one part isn’t functioning well, the others have to compensate for it ... when you’re blocking next to a guy that you know 100 percent is one of the best, if not the best, tackles in the state, you want to be at his level,” Francks said.
Mendoza, a long-haired senior nicknamed “Mendozer” — because sometimes there’s bodies on the ground after he’s done with a play — transferred to Roy from Davis in January and was slotted in at left tackle.
He has an offer from the University of Idaho and is talking to “a few” other FCS schools. Mendoza’s rated as the sixth-best class of 2019 offensive lineman in Utah and a three-star recruiting prospect by 247sports.com.
The problem is he’s dealt with a hamstring injury and didn’t play a full game until the Royals hammered Box Elder last month. At the high school level, it’s easy to think someone’s going to pancake everybody when you’re a 6-6, 280-pound tackle. As long as you don’t get caught up in the size advantage.
“Sometimes you have to take a different approach. I have to try to think like a small guy or else, you kind of take it for granted and don’t go as hard, but if you play like a little guy you can do it,” Mendoza said.
“You always look at the little guy, they’re the hardest hitter, the fastest hustler, so if you try to play like that, then you’re going to do good.”
Coincidentally, they’ve hammered everyone they’ve played except for Timpview since Mendoza returned. The running game has been more steady and quarterback Jaxson Dart has had more time to throw.
Dart got sacked at least 16 times in six of the first seven games of the year where stats are available, including six against Skyridge, and he’s been sacked just six times in the four games since Mendoza slotted in to his blind side.
Last Friday, Roy went up against the most physical team its seen all year in Timpview. The Royals got manhandled in the trenches at times, particularly when the Thunderbirds starting going to a power run game that nearly completed a comeback win.
That’s the kind of style and play both Hamblin and Mendoza like: a prolonged drive fueled by 5-6 yard runs that ends in a touchdown. They might need a few of those Friday in the 5A state semifinals against Skyridge. The Falcons are another big, physical team, something Timpview prepared them for.
This Friday should be interesting in its own right.