WINTERSVILLE — Andrew Connor likes to pride his teams on versatility, but he admits it usually “comes down to being able to run the ball.”
And to do that effectively, a solid offensive line is needed.
Connor and his coaching staff believe they’ve assembled a group of players to handle the job in trenches for the 74th annual OVAC Rudy Mumley All-Star Football Game, which will be played on Saturday, July 27 at Wheeling Island Stadium.
“We feel like it’s a good group of kids who all come from good programs,” Connor said.
“Regardless if it’s an all-star game or a regular season game, you need your offensive line to produce. We’re only going to be successful (offensively) if our offensive line allows us to run the ball.”
Since the Buckeye State plans to use the passing game as well, the Ohio coaches didn’t just study the run-blocking aspect of the nominees.
“All of these guys can pass block and they’re definitely not just strong at one aspect,” Connor continued.
On the defensive line, Ohio boasts size and a lot of it, which Connor hopes will negate some of what West Virginia has in mind.
“We have big, athletic kids who can challenge their size,” Connor said. “I think we have some guys who can put pressure on their offensive line to make some mistakes and we have some guys who might be tough to move, so it’s a good mixture.”
Set to battle for the jobs in the trenches when camp opens a week from today at Bethany College are Trent Bolek (Indian Creek), Cody Gamble (Harrison Central), Owen Hartshorn (Monroe Central), Joe Hoepfner (Bellaire), Cole LaRoche (Bellaire), Keonte Holmes (Steubenville), Andrew Jobe (Shadyside), DeAndre Pugh (Martins Ferry), Dalton Rice (Shenandoah) and Logan Wilson (Indian Creek).
Here’s a capsule look at the players:
TRENT BOLEK, Indian Creek — This former Redskin anchored the line for Coach Andrew Connor from his center spot.
The 6-3, 310 pounder was a four-year letterman and served as captain.
Bolek is also a standout in the classroom, earning academic all-OVAC four times. He’s a member of the National Honor Society, Key Club and Robotics Team.
Trent, who plans to attend the University of Akron, is the son of Hope Bonomo and Robert Bolek.
CODY GAMBLE, Harrison Central — This former Huskie was a two-way regular for Coach Anthony Hayes’ team.
The 6-2, 252 pounder had 60 tackles, including 11 for loss. he also had six sacks, forced two fumbles and recovered one.
His fine season earned him all-OVAC, all-Buckeye 8 and all-Eastern District.
Along with football, he was a standout in wrestling, placing third in the OVAC and winning the school’s Most Outstanding Wrestler award.
Cody is the son of Amber and Doug Little and Bill Gamble.
OWEN HARTSHORN, Monroe Central — This former Seminole standout was key contributor on both sides of the ball for Coach Josh Ischy’s team.
The 6-0, 200 pounder was a three-year letterman for the Seminoles.
He received the Gary Loveday Leadership Award and served as a captain of both the football and basketball teams. He was also named to the all-OVAC, all-PVC and all Times Leader teams.
Owen, who plans to attend Muskingum, is the son of Lisa Hartshorn and Scott Hartshorn.
JOE HOEPFNER, Bellaire — This former Big Reds standout helped lead a talented offensive line for Coach Mark Spigarelli’s team.
The 6-1, 285 pounder earned all Eastern District, honorable mention all-Ohio and all Times Leader. He also received the sportsmanship award following the game with Martins Ferry.
Along with football, Hoepfner took part in Buckeye Boys State and Young Life.
Joe, who is the son of Jeff and Kelly Hoepfner, plans to attend Ohio University.
KEONTE HOLMES, Steubenville — This former Big Red regular was a dominating force along the line for Coach Reno Saccoccia’s team.
The 6-4, 250 pounder didn’t allow a sack in two season and posted 70 pancake blocks.
Holmes was named first-team all-Ohio, all-Eastern District and all-OVAC. He also plaayed in the North-South Game.
Keonte, who is the son of Jerome Holmes, plans to attend Wheeling Jesuit.
ANDREW JOBE, Shadyside — This former Tiger was a mainstay on the line for Coach Mark Holenka’s squad.
The 6-1, 220 pounder earned all-Eastern District and special mention all-Ohio.
Andrew, who plans to attend OUE, is the son of James and Sherri Jobe.
COLE LAROCHE, Bellaire — This former Big Reds’ standout was a contributor basically all over the field for Spigarelli’s team.
He finished with 133 career tackles and 11 sacks from his defensive end spot. He also caught 26 passes and was true on 34 of 39 PATs and half of his four field-goal tries.
LaRoche was an all-OVAC, all-Eastern District and all-Times Leader pick. Along with football, he won the 2018 Division II state shot put championship and finished as an all-Ohioan for the third straight year this past June.
Away from athletics, he’s a member of the National Honor Society, Student Council and a class officer.
Cole, who plans to attend Ashland University to compete in track, is the son of John and Lisa LaRoche.
DEANDRE PUGH, Martins Ferry — This former Purple Rider was the leader of the offensive line for Coach Chas Yoder’s team from his left tackle spot.
The 6-5, 320 pounder was an all-OVAC, all-Ohio an all Times Leader selection.
Along with football, he was a standout in basketball.
DeAndre is the son of Jennifer Norris and Ralph Pugh.
DALTON RICE, Shenandoah — This former Zep was a key member of the offensive line for head coach Jesse Wells’ team.
The 6-1, 225 pounder graded out at 90 percent blocking and had 40 pancakes, while allowing just 1.5 sacks. He also had 51 tackles. He had an 88 percent blocking grade as a junior.
Rice was named his team’s offensive lineman of the year and was also accorded first-team all-Ohio accolades. He was a three-time all-Eastern District pick and twice named to the all-OVAC squad.
Dalton, who is the son of Trenda and Jeff Rice, plans to attend Ohio Wesleyan.
LOGAN WILSON, Indian Creek — This former Redskin was impressive at defensive end for Connor’s team.
The 5-8, 185 pounder recorded 63 tackles, including 41 solos. He also had 11 tackles for loss and eight sacks. He was named all-Eastern District, all-OVAC and all-Ohio special mention.
Logan is the son of Lynn and Ken Waggoner.