Williams Field High School football coach Steve Campbell admits there is some good and bad in regards to his offensive line heading into the 2019 season.
The bad has to do with age. All five starters are seniors, meaning Campbell will have to find an entirely new group in 2020.
But with age comes experience. That, along with the physical stature of each lineman, and the good outweighs the bad.
“It’s all about their mentality,” Campbell said. “They don’t have to bring along a young pup and teach them what they believe is good O-line play. They all have the same expectations for themselves as a group.”
Noah Nelson, Luke Moustis, Adam Reed, Cooper Darling and Andrew Garcia will lead the Williams Field offense out on the field this season.
Nelson, 6-foot-7, 290 pounds, will start at left tackle. Moustis, 6-foot-3, 280 pounds, will start at left guard next to Adam Reed, the Black Hawks’ 6-foot-3, 265-pound center. On the right side, 6-foot-4, 290-pound Cooper Darling will line up at guard, while 6-foot-8, 280-pound Andrew Garcia is at tackle. Factor in 6-foot-4, 208-pound three-star tight end Joshua Gale, and they become even more menacing.
“I don’t think I’ll ever have a line this big again,” Campbell said. “They probably have the most potential of any group I have ever had because of their pure size.”
Each player has shown his athleticism on the field, and Division I college football programs have taken notice.
Nelson, rated as a three-star prospect by 247Sports, is one of the top tackles in the state. He received more than 20 scholarship offers before he committed to the University of Oklahoma on May 13.
“Visiting a lot of programs, they talk to you a lot about all of the different things they can do for you and all of the accolades they’ve received,” Nelson said. “But through the recruiting process, to see what (Oklahoma) has done and the family aspect I saw on my visit, I felt that was something other programs lacked.”
About two weeks after Nelson shut down his recruiting, Darling did the same.
Also rated as a three-star prospect by 247Sports, Darling committed to Oregon State University on May 29.
“I really enjoyed the small-town feel,” Darling said. “The program overall has a lot of room to grow and that was attractive to me.”
Along with Darling and Nelson, Garcia has also received attention from college programs. He has offers from NAU, New Mexico State, Liberty and Northern Colorado.
All five starters have built a high level of trust with one another. They depend on each other to take care of their respective assignments, just as the rest of the offense does for them as a group.
The offensive line played a vital role in the Black Hawks success last season with then-senior Zack Shepherd under center. Williams Field went undefeated in the 5A San Tan Region for the third consecutive year, and finished 11-2 overall after falling to Notre Dame Prep in the semifinals.
This year, however, Williams Field will have a new quarterback for the first time in three seasons.
“I’ve told my quarterbacks that from the offense’s perspective, they are the least experienced out of everybody,” Campbell said. “I told them they need to go in there and earn respect and learn to mesh.
“That’s where having an experienced offensive line comes into play.”
Campbell believes the chemistry among the offensive line and veteran skill players will help lead his quarterbacks in the right direction come the first game of the season on Aug. 23.
Like most offensive linemen, both Nelson and Darling have plays in which they get the most satisfaction out of. Playing left tackle, Nelson often finds himself protecting the quarterback’s blindside. It’s a role he admits adds pressure, but makes him realize how important he is for the offense to be successful.
Darling, as is common with most guards, enjoys pulling to the next level.
“I just love getting to the second level,” Darling said, “Anytime I can get some movement going, it’s awesome.”
Both linemen have high expectations for themselves and the rest of the group. They aim to prove the team can count on them to get the job done up front.
Since they were freshmen, they’ve seen themselves evolve into leaders. Not so much in terms of being vocal, but their play on the field. They know if they can do what is expected of them on every play, it will lead to overall success amongst the team.
“I think it gives the rest of the offense reassurance that they don’t need to worry about what we are doing so they can focus on what they need to do,” Nelson said. “We see ourselves going out there and having fun.
“If we can do that while leading by example, that’s what we plan to do.”