LAFAYETTE — They definitely are easy to distinguish.
One is 6-foot-2 and a hulking, solid 240 pounds. The other is 5-foot-4 and a blur.
Mike DeVries and Matt Buchler are the same in one key facet, however. Each junior is being counted on to lead the youthful Centaurus football team this season, with ambitions of leaving the program in spectacular shape after their final two seasons.
“There are a couple seniors on the team, but I think people will kind of look up to me as the alpha male because I’ve been here and played at the level that I have,” said DeVries, who anchors both lines. “There’s a leadership role I’ll have to take on, especially with my guys, the linemen.”
Centaurus is coming of a 2-8 season, including a 2-3 mark in the Class 3A Mountain League. One of the bright spots was Buchler, who led the Warriors in rushing yards (545) and touchdowns (10).
While he wants to win more, the diminutive running back/kick returner was pleased with his ability to crack the lineup considering many were ahead of him on the depth chart entering the season.
“It was pretty satisfying, because I think I surprised myself last season,” Buchler said. “Toward the end of the season, we started doing better with a lot of younger guys in, and that’s been the thing about heading into this year. I’m looking forward to having the best line I’ve ever played behind.”
Centaurus returns only four starters, with DeVries and Buchler (also a cornerback) going both ways. Otherwise, it’s only linebacker Taylor Jackson and center Matt Maierhofer.
But that doesn’t mean doom and gloom.
“Everyone’s really bought in, and I think the rebellious culture we had has graduated,” DeVries said. “A lot of guys are buying into what the coaches are asking of us, to playing football instead of messing around outside of school and getting yourself in trouble.”
Warriors coach Chad Senseney is an unabashed fan of each player. He terms DeVries beastly on the defensive line and “one of the toughest blocks that I’ve gotten the chance to coach.”
Senseney wants Buchler to essentially be the same guy as last season, only with more opportunities. Last season, Buchler split carries with Tanner Martinelli. This time, another player is going to have to earn the role of spelling Buchler from time to time.
“Matt’s the guy coming back,” Senseney said. “We’re going to try to move him around, playing on the left, on the right, maybe fullback and he’ll be flanked out at wide receiver at times.”
Buchler also will continue to return kicks.
“The biggest thing about him is his big-play ability,” Senseney said. “He’s proven too tough to tackle. He’s an energy guy, not just on the field but in the weight room. He’s one of only a handful of guys who led us from November all the way till now.”
While the Warriors appear inexperienced on paper, circumstances forced many youngsters to play last year. While it was painful at times, the benefits could be reaped this season.
The Warriors have a difficult schedule, including defending 3A champ Silver Creek in Week 2, but are eager to see what unfolds.
“We had young guys who were out there against Erie in Week 10 and Holy Family in Week 9, so we have more experience than it looks like,” Senseney said. “We think we’re learning, but they’re all young kids and there’s going to be a curve to that. We’re going to have to be patient because we know we’re going to take some lumps here and there, but we’re also pretty excited.”
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