Right tackle Daniel Studer says trust is key to the Niles West offensive line’s success. Four of five starters on the unit are seniors and their teamwork on the football field is matched by their friendship off it.
“It really helps out that we know each other so well,” Studer said. “We’ve played together so long and we’re all good friends.”
The Wolves have scored at least 21 points in every game this season behind the experienced unit. Studer said the line’s work ethic and the players’ understanding of one another have made it effective.
“Overall our line play doesn’t come from any super star, 6-foot-7, huge athlete,” Studer said. “Our success comes from our effort on every single play and the chemistry we have between us.”
Senior left tackle George Tripkos agreed that consistency is one of the offensive line’s biggest strengths.
“I feel like we’re the rock of the offense,” Tripkos said. “[Offensive coordinator Mark] Steger has taught us it’s about doing your best on every single play.”
Wolves coach Scott Baum said he’s been impressed with how the offensive line has improved over the course of this season. Despite a 35-21 loss to New Trier on Friday, Baum said the line has done a good job of protecting quarterback Tommy Galanopoulos, and opening up holes for running back Brandon Costantino.
In addition to Studer and Tripkos, the line consists of senior center Brian Stranz, senior right guard Kaleb Siemieniewski and sophomore left guard Josh Weichel. In certain packages, sophomore Dan Gomez comes in as strong-side tackle.
Baum said he’s been impressed with how well the underclassmen have integrated into the offensive line.
“[The seniors] have a great relationship and they’ve accepted these two new guys and made it easy for them to come in and play,” Baum said.
Studer said he’s enjoyed watching the line’s two new players develop this season.
“Dan Gomez and Josh Weichel have been huge factors in our success, and I’m excited to see the future of the Niles West line making an impact now,” he said.
Studer said most the line’s senior members have been playing football together since the fifth grade.
“These guys are my closest friends,” Tripkos said. “We’ve grown together over the years.”
In addition to the time the line spends together on field, the unit also spends much of their time together off the field. Tripkos said he likes to have teammates over to watch film in his basement. Their relationship is not all about football, though. Studer said they also enjoy going out to eat together and playing the FIFA soccer video game.
A win on Friday at home against Glenbrook South would guarantee the Wolves (5-3) a berth in the playoffs, but their opponents have enough wins (39 though Week 8) that they’ll likely earn a spot in the playoffs even if they lose.
Whenever the season does end for the Wolves, Studer and Tripkos both said they’ll be able to look back at their Niles West football careers fondly.
“I’ve been playing football with this group of guys since fifth grade, so this last year has been a good way to end our long career together,” Studer said.