November 15, 2012

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Blanchet a little man with a big job

By Bill Stewart
Staff Writer

It's often said that numbers don't lie.

click image to enlarge

Staff photo by David Leaming Mt Blue football center Drew Blanchet, in center, is seen blocking after snapping ball during practice in Farmington on Wednesday.

click image to enlarge

Staff photo by Joe Phelan Mt. Blue football player Drew Blanchet.jpg

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

However, they do when it comes to Mt. Blue senior center Drew Blanchet.

"On paper, I'm listed at 5-foot-6 and 150 pounds," he said. "I'm actually two inches shorter than that, and I'm right around 145 pounds."

Blanchet knows he isn't going to overwhelm anybody on a football field because he doesn't fit the mold of a prototypical center.

When Blanchet lines up against a defensive lineman, it's never a question of whether he'll be out-sized, but by how much.

"I snap with two hands in the shotgun and under center because my hands are so small," Blanchet said. "It's funny, when I go back and watch film I can barely see myself in the game. I know I'm there, but I have to look closely. It's tough to see me in the game sometimes."

It's not tough to measure his impact on the Cougars, coach Gary Parlin said Tuesday.

"We hoped he'd be good, but he's far out-weighed expectations," he said. "He had one bad snap all year. He's been pretty much dead-on, which is the No. 1 thing. But for him to be able to block guys who are more than twice his size? He's a pretty remarkable kid.

"He and the whole offensive line are a big reason we are where we are. We knew we had the skill position guys, but we had questions on the line coming in."

After 11 consecutive wins and a trip to the Class B state title game, those questions are no longer asked.

Mt. Blue (11-0) will play Marshwood (10-1) at 6 p.m. Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland. The Cougars will play in their first state title game since they lost to Bonny Eagle 41-13 in the 2005 Class A game. Marshwood last played for a state title in 1989, when it beat Skowhegan 26-14 to take the Class A crown.

Mt. Blue entered the season as a favorite in the Pine Tree Conference's Class B division, a threat to dethrone three-time defending champion Leavitt. The Cougars had an elite quarterback, Jordan Whitney, and a stout defense, led by linebacker Chad Luker and defensive end Zak Kendall.

What they didn't have was an experienced offensive line.

The Cougars returned just one starter up front -- senior tackle Eli Luker.

"Eli Luker was our returning starter," Parlin said, "and the rest of those guys either had no varsity experience or played a few mop-up games. We didn't really knew what to expect there.

Added Whitney, who is one of Blanchet's closest friends: "The line, they came in and they were so young. I didn't know what would happen with them."

It didn't take long to find out.

Tackle Colin Richards and Kendall, a tight end, provided plenty of size and strength. Guards Tyler Sennick and Connor Farrington emerged as key contributors.

"Offensively, I never really expected to become as good as we are, as I am," Farrington said. "We are a lot of first-year starters and we're getting the job done. It's been wicked fun. We're enjoying the ride while it lasts and hopefully we can end it on a good note."

And then there was Blanchet, who quietly developed into one of the best centers in the PTC B.

But how can someone so small play a position in which size is often paramount to success?

"My speed makes up for it," Blanchet said. "I block on all fours. I get on my hands and feet and just Cougar-crawl into the thigh pad area. It seems to work. I don't have a lot of varsity playing time, but that can be a good thing, too. It makes you all the more focused."

Blanchet recalls one of his standout performances in an Oct. 5 game at Leavitt. He was lined up against 6-foot-7, 300-pound Leavitt defensive tackle Matt Powell for much of that game.

"The first play of the game I was actually kind of nervous," Blanchet said. "I didn't go 100 percent that first play, and he beat me. I thought, 'I can't be doing this.' So I went all out the rest of the game and the rest of the season."

The Cougars prevailed 20-12, and they haven't looked back since.

Bill Stewart -- 621-5640

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