Colossal tackle Ben Wooching wins more than his fair share of skirmishes. The 6-foot, 300-pound junior racked up six sacks and 73 tackles for Silver Creek this season, despite facing frequent double teams while anchoring the defensive line.
“This game is an individual battle played by a team. If we win the individual battles then we’re going to be successful,” head coach Mike Apodaca says.
The Raptors’ D-line is one reason the team bashed its way into the state 3A playoffs, where the team won its first-round game last week.
Silver Creek’s defensive attack often comes in the form of a “bull rush,” where Wooching uses his heft and lower body strength to drive his opponent straight backward. He also likes to feint to one side then deliver a punishing, uppercut “club rip” move to an unsuspecting blocker.
“Our coaches stress discipline to your gaps and lanes. You need tenacity on the defensive line to want to go out and get the quarterback every time,” Wooching says.
Wooching was born and raised in Longmont, but his father is originally from American Samoa. The son credits his titanic frame and his sense of discipline to his Samoan ethnic background.
“Discipline is something they stress not only in football but in life, in everything that you do. If you’re disciplined, then you know the task at hand and it’s going to get done,” Wooching says.
Apodaca calls Wooching “the core of the defense” and says the lineman’s best asset is brute force.
“His pad level is so low. With his strength, if he gets underneath you, you don’t have a chance. His leverage makes him real successful in the pass rush,” Apodaca says.
As massive as he is, Wooching is also remarkably nimble. Apodaca noted that despite a relative lack of height, Wooching’s athleticism allows him to frequently disrupt plays and tip passes.
“He gets so far in the backfield with his rush it just makes it hard for a guy to elevate the ball on him,” Apodaca says.
The coach estimates that unless the opponent is down big on the scoreboard, his defense only sees eight to 10 pass attempts per game. Considering how few opportunities he has to harass quarterbacks, Wooching’s six sacks and 10 tipped passes are all the more impressive.
Despite the Raptors’ potent aerial attack on offense, the team’s fortunes often depend on the performance of their defense.
“If we can’t outscore people and we’re getting into a shooting match, we’re flipping a coin,” Apodaca says.
The Raptors have lit up the scoreboard week in and week out this season, averaging close to 29 points a game. But in eight victories the defense has allowed an average of just nine points per game, while in their three defeats the number jumped to more than 28 points allowed per game.
“When our defense shines, our offense is really going to look good. We’ll go as far as our defense takes us,” Apodaca says.
Wooching has recently been playing some offensive left guard as well. He says line play has a big impact on the outcome of a game, even if it doesn’t always show up in the box score.
“The one thing about the line is that it’s really where (the game) is won. The stats will show the quarterback’s passes but he doesn’t get that pass off if the offensive line doesn’t block all those guys,” Wooching says.
A self-described “defensive type of guy,” Wooching says players on both sides of the line of scrimmage have something in common.
“There are different skills that you need, but I think the mentality needs to be the same. That aggressiveness, that nastiness is what you need to bring to the offensive and defensive line,” he says.
“No matter what the game, what the situation it’s just another football game. We just need to go out there and execute,” Wooching says.
The Raptors recently switched from a 3-5 to a 4-4 defensive alignment. The adjustment pairs Wooching inside with junior nose tackle Garrett Howard and gives junior ends Trace Gray and Igor Pelowski more one on one matchups on the edges.
As a nose tackle in Silver Creek’s 3-5 defense, Wooching used to play mostly “shade technique” where he lined up directly across from the center. In the 4-4 alignment, Howard lines up at nose tackle and Wooching moves to the “three technique” where he can wreak havoc in the gap between the guard and tackle.
“With those four guys up front we feel like they’re going to win most of their individual battles. I don’t think we have to disguise too much and blitz to cause confusion. I think we can let those dudes just play,” Apodaca says.