November 15, 2012

Mt. Blue's small center hits the heights

Drew Blanchet is 5-foot-4, weighs 145 pounds and is the center on a Mt. Blue team seeking a state title.

By BILL STEWART Kennebec Journal

It's often said that numbers don't lie, but they do when it comes to Mt. Blue senior center Drew Blanchet.

click image to enlarge

Drew Blanchet, who said he’s 5-foot-4, 145 pounds, may appear lost on the Mt. Blue offensive line, but at center he’s made his presence felt. And in a very big way.

David Leaming/Morning Sentinel

"On paper I'm listed at 5-foot-6 and 150 pounds," he said. "I'm actually 2 inches shorter than that and I'm right around 145 pounds."

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

Against a defensive lineman, it's never a question of whether he'll be outsized 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."

But it's easy to measure his impact, Coach Gary Parlin said .

"We hoped he'd be good but he's far outweighed expectations," Parlin 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're where we are. We knew we had the skill position guys but we had questions on the line."

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 losing to Bonny Eagle 41-13 in the 2005 Class A final. Marshwood last played for a state title in 1989, when it beat Skowhegan 26-14 to win Class A.

Mt. Blue entered the Eastern Class B season as a threat to dethrone Leavitt, the three-time defending champion. The Cougars had an elite quarterback, Jordan Whitney, and a stout defense, led by linebacker Chad Luker and end Zak Kendall.

What they didn't have was an experienced offensive line. The Cougars returned just one starter -- senior tackle Eli Luker.

"The rest of those guys either had no varsity experience or played a few mop-up games," said Parlin. "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 size and strength. Guards Tyler Sennick and Connor Farrington became 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's Blanchet, who quietly developed into one of the best centers in Eastern Class B.

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."

In an Oct. 5 game at Leavitt, Blanchet was lined up against 6-foot-7, 300-pound 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.


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