GREAT FALLS — On Friday night, Great Falls CMR quarterback Garrison Rothwell rushed for three short-yardage touchdowns in a 29-22 win over Missoula Big Sky.
And while Rothwell’s name is the one that shows up in the television highlights and in the stat sheet, it’s no secret the Rustler offense is only as good as the big guys up front. They’re the ones doing dirty work in the trenches.
“It makes me feel comfortable having those five guys in front,” Rothwell said about his offensive line. “Without them we couldn’t do anything we do.”
The Rustlers’ offensive line is one of the biggest and most physical in the state. With center Gerrit Bloemendaal (6-foot-3, 263 pounds), guards KC Buday (6-1, 252) and Boedy Walker (6-1, 262) and tackles Tyler Johnson (6-4, 312) and Jacob Janusz (6-1, 252) leading the way, CMR has marched to a 2-1 start to the season.
But the “Hawgies”, as they’re affectionally known, aren’t just brawny. They’re equal parts brainy. An O-lineman’s job entails so much more than just taking up and clearing space.
“We got to watch and see what kind of stunts their defense is doing, what kind of blitzes they’re going to throw at us, what to do in those types of situations,” Johnson said. “So we just got to do a whole lot of film study and draw up our plays as we see fit.”
The five starters are all seniors and they’ve been playing together for as long as they can remember.
“We’re so close together, it almost feels like we’re an actual family out here,” said Bloemendaal. “We’ve been working together from freshman year on.”
It actually goes back even further.
“We’ve been playing with each other since third grade, been with each other throughout elementary school, middle school and now high school,” added Johnson, “and this is our last year together.”
The tight-knit unit stays together away from the field, too. They hang out, they watch sports and, of course, being big teenagers with high metabolism, they eat meals together.
“Usually McDonalds,” laughed Buday. “Not going to lie, those McChickens and double quarter pounders get us going.”
“I would like to see an eating competition between all of us,” added Bloemendaal. “It’d be close.”
It takes a special kind of Rustler to be a Hawgie, and this year’s group hopes to make it a special year.
“We’re kind of the mean, dirty, tough guys out on the field, just like actual hogs,” Bloemendaal said. “We just get to live up to the people that are on the wall of fame and all the good groups that have come before us.”
“This is a great group and I love them all,” added Johnson.
CMR (2-1) hits the road to face defending Class AA champ Billings Senior (3-0), Friday at 4 p.m.