Gibbons' strength on line

STAFF WRITERNovember 10, 2009 

Cardinal Gibbons coach Mike Sheehan developed a rotation plan for his defensive linemen in the preseason.

But he has never needed it.

Since the opening kickoff on Aug. 21 against Clayton through last Friday's 35-14 regular-season ending victory at Oxford Webb, substitutions on the defensive line have been rare.

Sheehan didn't plan for seniors Nate Steele, Andrew Shaffer, Marc Duchaine and Eric Albright to never leave the game. But they never seem to be tired.

They are the front four in Gibbons' multiple base 4-3 alignment and also start on offense.

Duchaine (6 feet 1, 235 pounds) is a guard or tackle on offense.

Albright (6-6, 235) doubles as a fullback. Steele (6-0, 265) is the center, and Shaffer (6-6, 250) is a tight end.

"I knew I needed them on both sides of the ball and worked out a substitution pattern to keep them fresh," Sheehan said.

"But I kept waiting for someone to look tired or ask to come out for a breather. That never happened."

Sheehan kept thinking that someone in the group would tire some night in the fourth quarter, but if it has happened, the players haven't let on.

"Running on empty," a phrase Sheehan believes was coined by Duchaine, is the group's motto.

Gibbons is 9-1 and is the top seed in the Eastern 3-A bracket thanks to a sneakily good defense.

The Crusaders are allowing 8.9 points per game, second in the area to Wake Forest-Rolesville.

They are allowing 69.3 passing yards and 97 rushing yards, first and second in the area.

The club has allowed five second-half touchdowns this season, and no meaningful fourth-quarter score in seven weeks.

The Crusaders have generally shut teams down in the second half, holding Cedar Ridge to 5 yards and Southern Vance to minus-20 in the last two periods.

"We seem to be in better shape than some of the people we're playing," Sheehan said.

The foundation for this year's success may have been laid in the summer of 2008 when the foursome dedicated themselves to helping build a program at Gibbons.

Last year, they helped Gibbons earn its first football playoff victory ever.

They hope for more success beginning Friday against a 1-10 Currituck team.

They aren't tired yet.

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