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Another brick in the wall: Undefeated Mount Si team punishing opponents, gathering strength for Bellevue test

The Brick Wall: tight end Griffin McLain, a.k.a., “Squirt,” with Tyler “Hurt Locker” Rutherford, Stephen “Black Knight” Nnabue, Mitch “Respect” Rorem and Blake “Hermanator” Herman (Not pictured: Brad Christensen). Mount Si’s line is improving weekly, players say, as the undefeated ‘Cats gear up against top-ranked Bellevue. - Seth Truscott/Staff Photo
The Brick Wall: tight end Griffin McLain, a.k.a., “Squirt,” with Tyler “Hurt Locker” Rutherford, Stephen “Black Knight” Nnabue, Mitch “Respect” Rorem and Blake “Hermanator” Herman (Not pictured: Brad Christensen). Mount Si’s line is improving weekly, players say, as the undefeated ‘Cats gear up against top-ranked Bellevue.
— image credit: Seth Truscott/Staff Photo

Intensifying their routine every day in the run-up to a major showdown, first-string members of Mount Si’s offensive line took a break during the second half of last week’s punishing shutout of Lake Washington. They got to watch the second string slug it out during the second half, mindful of the coming test this Friday with Bellevue.

Linemen Blake Herman, Tyler Rutherford, Stephen Nnabue, Brad Christensen and center Mitch Rorem collectively refer to themselves as the “Brick Wall.”

They make it possible for skill players like Nick Mitchell, Trent Riley and Cameron Van Winkle to do their thing.

“There’s a lot of focus on the skills,” says Rorem. “There’s us in the background, holding it down.”

Nnabue condenses the offensive line’s mission to six words: “Protect and serve ‘Bird Dog,’” the nickname of junior quarterback Nick Mitchell.

That’s just what they did Friday. Mitchell and company delivered as Mount Si dominated the Kangaroos, 51-0.

Top of the scoring list was senior wide receiver Riley, with a pick and two long pass receptions to his credit. After a 69-yard pass from Mitchell in the first to score, followed by a 65-yard punt return to the end zone, Riley capped his night by snagging a Lake Washington ball and hauling it 85 yards for another six.

“When we come out with energy at the start, and we get up like this, it makes it pretty easy,” Riley said.

“Shout out to the offensive line,” Mitchell credited the group on Friday. “That’s where it all starts.”

When Mount Si’s line is overestimated, “We show up and plow them over,” said Nnabue. The line is improving with every game, he adds.

“We know we’ve got next week,” Rorem adds. “We’re dialing things in, getting ready for the big game.”

“We’ve all come together,” says senior running back Joey Cotto. “We’ve been playing with each other since we were that big.”

The golden-footed kicker Cameron Van Winkle also continued his amazing career, breaking a state record for total field goals in a season with 34.

Van Winkle got a rare opportunity to bring down a Kang runner on a kick return, the last line of defense.

“Don’t let him beat me,” Van Winkle thought to himself as he grabbed the runner.

Aerial play was also in abundance, as No. 18 Tyler Button homed in on a 66-yard pass from Mitchell to score in the second quarter.

“You’ve got to hope that you and your quarterback are on the same page,” he said. “When you are, great things happen like this.” He takes his role seriously enough to dwell on a dropped ball against Interlake, but otherwise is positive about his play.

In the weeks ahead, Button wants “to see our air game pick up, have no mental mistakes. And stay undefeated.”

There were also some eye-popping interceptions Friday.

“Once you get that ball, you’re up, you’re looking for your generals—Tyler, Trent, Hunter,” said senior Jimbo Davis, who snagged a pick of his own on the 30-yard line in the first quarter. “You get a wall from them, and try to take it to six.”

‘They prepare us’

Davis credits work by the Mount Si coaches for the team’s roll of undefeated success.

“They prepare us, week in and week out, to be the best we can be,” he said.

To head coach Charlie Kinnune, the current Mount Si team looks like the strongest he’s seen in six years.

Friday’s matchup was another chance to build depth in the second string of younger players.

“We’re getting lots of reps,” the coach said. “It’s all good.”

The second string was “real hungry” for a touchdown in the second half, said sophomore middle linebacker Andrew Thompson—and they got it.

Junior running back Jordan Chapman claimed the touchdown in a 10-yard hustle.

“I’m real happy that we’ve got a good enough team, that the first string can play the first half and rest up, and let the second string have some fun, get some depth,” Thompson said.

“It’s good to see what they do, what they’ve got to do for our program,” Cotto said. “They’re all stepping up.”

“We’re getting better and better,” Mitchell says. “That’s the real key going into Bellevue,” who is just above Mount Si in the rankings.  “This is a huge game for us and we’re looking forward to it.”

Mitchell also credits the hard work that goes on every day in practice.

“It’s paying off, big time,” he added. “We’re just going to bring it all, give it all we’ve got,” he said.

“I want to see us stand up with them,” Cotto said. “I know what they have to offer. I know we can play our game.”

• The Wildcats face the Wolverines at home this Friday, 7 p.m.

 

 

Above, the Mount Si line holds off Lake Washington as quarterback Nick Mitchell fires a pass.

 

Cameron Van Winkle makes his state record-breaking field goal Friday.

The Mount Si second string line in action.

 

 

 

 

 

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