Before the Corona del Mar High football season, Coach Scott Meyer said the question mark on the team was the offensive line.
"We knew we had skill guys on offense," said Meyer, referring to the wide receivers, running back and quarterback.
Meyer's issue with his linemen was that they weren't much bigger than his skill players were.
Across the line, the average height was 6-foot-1 and weight was 221 pounds. With the kind of spread offense the Sea Kings planned to run, they didn't have a need for 300-pounders.
The question was how CdM's small line would do against a huge, physical defensive line. In the second game of the season, Meyer got his answer.
The Sea Kings faced Huntington Beach, a bigger team. The line handled the Oilers and CdM pulled off a 28-21 upset on the road.
Since then, Meyer's only question to his linemen is how many wings will satisfy them on a Tuesday night. A lot, because even though they aren't as massive as other lines in Orange County, left tackle Nick Storm, left guard Hunter Molnar, center Caden Stark, right guard Giovanni Gentosi and right tackle Liam Duddy have proven they can move defenses.
Tight end Matt English blocks, too, when he's not catching passes.
Maybe you cannot say the line has paved the way for CdM to reach its first CIF Southern Section title game in 22 years, more like pulled the Sea Kings in that direction.
When Storm, Molnar, Stark, Gentosi, Duddy and English line up against top-seeded Beckman (11-2), their opponent in the Southern Division finale at Orange Coast College on Friday, they'll look small compared to the 270-pounders across from them.
The size differential doesn't faze second-seeded CdM (11-2).
"They're able to actually play more physical than their size actually will dictate," said Meyer, adding that the keys to the line's success are how well it moves and how smart it plays.
Meyer credits offensive line coaches Eric Salazar and Kyle Collins for developing the line in one year.
Meyer, in his first season at CdM, brought in Salazar from Mission Viejo High. Because of the line, Meyer said quarterback Brent Lawson has set single-season school records at CdM for passing yards (2,400) and passing touchdowns (25), and tailback Erik Fisher has rushed for 1,623 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Molnar calls Salazar a modern day Yoda.
"He's definitely helped me and I know the entire line became way better players than we ever would be," said Molnar, a 6-foot, 200-pounder.
Molnar has turned into one of the best guards in the area, not bad for someone who sat out last season to focus on lacrosse.
There was a reason why Molnar returned to football. His older brother, Noah, played football at CdM three years ago, helping the program advance to the semifinals against Mayfair of Lakewood.
Molnar was a ninth-grader back when Noah stood out at wide receiver and cornerback, earning All-CIF Southern Section Southern Division honors.
"I knew when I watched that game … there was no way when I came back my senior year that we weren't going to the finals," Molnar said. "You look up to them when you're a freshman and you want to do everything you can to be like them. Then now you're here as a senior, and it's like, 'Wow! Time went by [fast].' You just want to do what they couldn't do."
Noah's team lost the first of two semifinals appearance in a three-year span under-then coach Jason Hitchens.
Molnar helped CdM break through the semifinals last week in a 41-14 win at Laguna Beach. Molnar and the rest of the line has a much arduous task in the finale.
The last time Molnar faced Beckman, the Patriots' top defensive lineman, Khodadod Kia, put Molnar straight on his butt on the first offensive play of the game.
Kia won that battle, as did his team. In the regular-season finale featuring two undefeated Pacific Coast League teams, Beckman finished perfect when it secured a 42-37 victory and the program's first league crown.
The Patriots ended the Sea Kings' nine-game unbeaten streak in league dating back to last season, more importantly it dethroned CdM, the defending champion. English said Beckman came out more fired up for the contest.
As for who will block the 6-foot, 270-pound Kia in the rematch, the youngest starter on the line speaks up.
"A lot of people," said Gentosi, a 6-2, 205-pound sophomore.
No one argues with Gentosi because Kia is that dominant.
The only dispute CdM's line gets into is when it comes to Kia's size. Molnar believes the senior is taller than what's listed on Beckman's roster.
"No, he's not 6-3," said English, a 6-1, 215-pound senior. "He's like 5-11, 240. I went to a camp with him and he's not very tall."
Size doesn't seem to really matter. The Sea Kings' offensive line has proven that this year.
Who: Corona del Mar (11-2) vs. Beckman (11-2)
What: CIF Southern Section Southern Division Final
Where: Orange Coast College, LeBard Stadium
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: General, $9; student/child, $5
On the web: The game will be streamed live at foxsportswest.com/prepzone
Coming Friday: CdM linebacker Aaron White is the Daily Pilot Player of the Week.