MOORE HAVEN — The player on defense from Oasis never had a chance.
With the ball on the Oasis 16-yard line midway through the third quarter, Moore Haven used a surge by its linemen to open a giant lane for a touchdown run.
Paving the way were linemen Conner Thomas and Rob Harris, who teamed up to bulldoze the Oasis player for just about all 16 yards, proving that 180 pounds was no match for more than 600 pounds.
The play summed up a successful night by Moore Haven on Oct. 12 as the Terriers used their size advantage on the line, speed in the backfield and a sharp defensive performance to emerge with a comfortable 36-7 win on a wet, sloppy night at Joe Brown Stadium.
As October wrapped up and with just one regular season game left, Moore Haven was in the midst of compiling another outstanding season. The Terriers, who went 10-1 last year, followed up the win against Oasis with a 36-14 triumph at First Baptist Academy in Naples to improve to 7-1. Seeded No. 4 in its region as of late October, Moore Haven was in good position to make the postseason for the second straight year.
Moore Haven’s offensive line — with the Brighton Reservation’s Thomas, Harris and Andrew Fish playing big roles (all three are listed at over 300 pounds) along with Justin Sexton and Jeremiah Williams — has plenty of size to surge forward for a team that loves to run.
“That’s what we look for every game. Our line is so big,” Thomas said. “Everybody on the line is a big part of the line.”
With speedy, agile players such as Dawnya Washington, Nate Crawford and Lorenzo Sampson in the backfield, sometimes all they need is a little opening to make a big gain.
“Our backs change all the time. They have different speeds and different techniques. As long as we give them holes, they’re going to hit them,” Thomas said.
The offensive line’s performance hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“The O line is really our leaders this year. They’re really stepping up,” said Moore Haven coach Max Manin.
Harris (6-foot-6) and Fish (6-foot-4) have the size that is attracting attention from Division I, or FBS, schools. Fish, a senior, has received offers from Florida Atlantic University, Georgia Southern, Kent State, North Carolina Central and Western Kentucky, according to 247Sports.com. Harris, a junior, still has another year left. He’s received an offer from Florida International University.
Often the trio from Brighton line up next to each other on the line of scrimmage. Sophomore Donovan Harris, a substitute who isn’t yet as big as the other players from the reservation, has also seen brief action on defense.
Thomas, who is closer to 6-foot, has drawn attention from smaller colleges. The four-year veteran right guard is the leader not only on the O line, but on the entire team as its captain. He picks who is going to accompany him to midfield for the coin toss each game, a process that Manin said is usually determined as a reward to someone who has worked especially hard in practice or done something else positive to catch the captain’s eye. Thomas, a senior, doesn’t take his captaincy lightly, especially on a young team that has about 15 combined freshmen and sophomores.
“It’s a learning process. It tests me in leadership. I’m honored to have it,” he said.
When the team suffered an overtime loss to St. John Neumann in week 2, Thomas knew something had to be said and he used his leadership role to help put the team back on track. Moore Haven proceeded to find its groove and crank out six straight wins heading into its senior night Nov. 2.
“It’s hard to describe the 180 this team has done; attitude-wise, work ethic-wise,” Manin said. “[Conner will] get in front of the team. He’s a true leader. He’s an unbelievable kid. We’re lucky to have him.”