Skyline High School offensive line coach Gregg Baczuk said one of the Grizzlies’ team mottos is, simply, “prove it”.
After starting the season 0-2, Skyline (9-2) has proved its worth in 2017 by advancing to its second-consecutive 4A football state championship Friday night against Minico (9-2). Kickoff is slated for 8:15 p.m at Holt Arena.
But instead of flash and high-octane offense it used a year ago to win the 4A title, Skyline has leaned on — arguably — the best high school offensive line in Idaho.
“I don’t know, it’s more meaningful (this year),” senior left guard Daniel Helsley said at Wednesday’s practice. “Last year, I don’t think we had a bad o-line. I definitely think we weren’t nearly as good as we were this year. But to know that so many people are counting on us this year to really perform, I think it’s special.”
Skyline will certainly count on its offensive line again Friday night in Pocatello.
And why not. Baczuk said this year’s offensive line has been “one of highest rated lines he’s ever coached.” They’ve allowed just two sacks all season and tallied 93 pancake blocks, per Baczuk, and have “proved” their worth since the Grizzlies and local media hyped about them during the preseason.
Friday is their moment — not anyone named David Ames III or Bridger Taylor.
“It’s so much fun to watch this group of o-line kids work together,” Baczuk said. “I’m so thrilled for them to have the opportunity to play together in this game and on this stage.”
Baczuk and head coach Scott Berger complimented their line Tuesday night over the phone, as well as running back Kyler Morgan, for turning the season around after a slow start.
Skyline has won nine in a row since its last loss, outscoring its opponents 319-130 during that span, and leaned on its zone-blocking scheme to create holes for quarterback Dylan Bialas and Morgan.
Both Morgan and Bialas have rushed more than 750 yards on the season and reached the endzone 10 times.
“We knew going into last year, mixing (the offensive line) in with David Ames, Bridger and Carson Lott — that would be the beauty of 2016,” Skyline coach Scott Berger said. “The beauty of 2017 is that we have had to do it in a different way … what’s nice is that (the offensive line) has a lot of experience and they’ve played a lot of football for us in the past few years.”
Helsley said the Grizzlies’ line “has gotten sharper” since a year ago. Helsley — a finalist for the Post Register’s All-Area Football Player of the Year — will finish as the highest rated Skyline offensive lineman since 2006, according to Baczuk’s grading system.
Baczuk says after every game, he grades each lineman and synthesizes their performance into a single percentage grade based on technique, intensity and responsibility. He looks at every offensive play and gives the players a plus or minus and mathematically gives them a final grade for each game.
He said he’s never had a perfect grade. On the data given to the Post Register, an 80 percent is considered “All-State” and 70 is considered “All-Conference.”
On the season, Helsley is rated 78 percent, right guard Kellen Higgins is rated 77 percent, left tackle Dylan Kaasa is rated 76 and center Daniel Cabrera will finish around 75 percent. Right tackle Marley Garcia will finish close to 71 percent.
All will potentially rank in the top-10 best linemen Baczuk has ever coached at Skyline, according to his data.
“They’re like family, they really are,” said Baczuk, who invites over his lineman “for pancakes” — or dinner — if they met their goals for the week. “They fight like brothers, but they also bleed like brothers.”
The Grizzlies’ five big boys up front will be tasked with controlling the line of scrimmage against a Spartans’ team that “battles hard in the trenches,” Berger said Tuesday.
Minico is coming off a dramatic 29-28 win over No. 1 seed and previously undefeated Skyview, where the Spartans scored on a two-point conversion to win its seventh in a row.
These two teams have met before this season, though. Berger said they met during the annual jamboree during the summer, meaning Skyline will start and finish its season against the same opponent.
But with its second straight state title on the line, Helsley said the roles have reversed. Unlike a year ago, the Grizzlies are not the underdogs.
“This year is going to be a little different because it’s more about preserving,” Helsley said.