Mind matters to Westlake linemen

It's Saturday morning, and four of Westlake High's six offensive linemen have shown up to practice wearing pajama bottoms.

"If we know the coaches aren't going to have a problem with us being comfortable, then we're going to be comfortable," said the line's spokesman, senior center Jordie Hannel. "So it's wake up, throw on the most comfortable thing we can find, come to practice."

There's no reason to doubt the sincerity of Hannel, a 6-foot-2, 250-pound senior who has a 4.7 grade-point average, a 2320 SAT score out of a possible 2400 and has never received a grade other than A on his report card in high school.

"He's basically a genius," Coach Jim Benkert said. "I tell him all the time he's smarter than three of the coaches put together. He makes all the line calls, he calls the center snap, he corrects any quarterback mistakes we might have."

In other words, Hannel is the secret weapon for unbeaten Westlake (12-0), which is seeded No. 1 in the Northern Division playoffs and faces visiting Thousand Oaks on Friday in a semifinal game.

Defenses have to try to outsmart someone who's getting A's this semester in AP calculus, AP English, AP physics, AP computer science and AP U.S. government. And he knows football too.

"I'm pretty quick reading the defense and making calls if whatever play we have doesn't match up with what the defense is throwing at us," Hannel said. "If the quarterback makes a mistake, I'm there to check him and make him look better."

Westlake's offensive line might be the best in school history. The Warriors won section titles in 1999, 2003 and 2009, but Benkert believes this offensive line is the most versatile.

"In high school, most coaches will tell you we have a couple good ones, maybe we have an average one and we're hiding two guys," he said. "To put five guys together on a high school team with size, speed and power is unusual. We've never had a line like this year."

Surrounding Hannel are guards Anthony Davanzo (6-2, 255) and Javier Aguilera (6-3, 345) and tackles Keith Ramljak (6-4, 265) and Tony Mekari (6-3, 250), with Brennan Ray (6-0, 235) rotating in.

"The offensive line jelled so well as a group, and they're able to do all aspects of our offense," Benkert said. "They're able to pull, they're able to pass protect, they're able to run block."

The beneficiaries of Westlake's blockers have been quarterback Justin Moore and running back Dashon Hunt, both of whom are having all-star seasons.

Ramljak, who has a 4.0 GPA, was considered the top lineman in the Marmonte League this season. He credits the line's experience as a group for making a difference.

"We've played almost two varsity seasons together," he said. "We know each other like the back of our hands."

And they're smart.

"Coaches don't have to tell us twice to get the play done," Mekari said. "We help each other [with] what's the best way to get to the block."

Most of all, these linemen click as a group.

"We don't get real nervous before games," Hannel said. "We're very confident in working with the guy next to us."

Some of the linemen are almost certain to end up in the Ivy League. Others could soon be appearing in pajama commercials.

"It's 8 a.m. Saturday morning. I should be wearing pajamas anyway," Ramljak said. "There's no reason not to deprive myself of the luxury of wearing pajamas."

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com twitter.com/LATSondheimer

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