Big up front.

Those three words seem to always apply to Arroyo Grande High's football team. 

The Eagles perennially have one of the largest and nastiest offensive line units on the Central Coast. Without fail.

Righetti, though, has a pretty good offensive line itself.

The Warriors (6-1, 0-0 Mountain League) and Eagles (5-3, 1-0) will clash Friday night in a Mountain League showdown with major implications. The winner of Friday's game will surely be the favorite to capture the league championship. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. at Righetti High.

Arroyo Grande has seven players on its roster listed over 270 pounds. Righetti has two.

Righetti's offensive line has been a foundation of the team since Tony Payne took over as head coach last season. This year's unit is led by Henry Aguilar III, Jake MacKinnon and Robert Lamb II. 

Aguilar, a senior who carries a 4.25 GPA, plays offensive tackle and on the defensive line. MacKinnon, also a senior, is an athletic guard who's built up a reputation for getting downfield and opening up running lanes with jarring blocks at the second or even third level. 

Lamb, the team's center, missed the end of last season with a major knee injury but has returned to play well in the middle of the line. 

Angel Guerrero, Zealand Davis and Kyle Sogge are the other main contributors on the line. 

Coming into Friday's game against Arroyo Grande, the Warriors have found a way to maintain offensive balance that elite teams strive for. 

Righetti, led by quarterback Logan Mortensen, averages 198 passing yards and 186 rushing yards per game. The Warriors may have to lean on that unit even more as big-play receiver Jake Steels is out with an ankle injury.

Payne, an offensive lineman by nature, has kept a close eye on this group all season. 

Payne describes his offensive line linchpins as such:

"It all starts with Lamb. He's got his hand on the ball every play and I feel like our snaps have been incredibly consistent. Lamb has been our anchor."

"Henry plays on both sides of the ball and his motor is incredible," Payne added of Aguilar. "He's been a leader since the beginning."

"Jake MacKinnon is such an athlete. He's one of the fastest guys on our whole team and he plays guard," Payne said. "A big reason we've gotten long runs is because Jake and Angel are able to get out there on the perimeter."

Payne calls Guerrero the "tone setter." 

"He's a tough kid from Guadalupe," Payne said. 

That unit will go up against the Arroyo Grande defense that's given up 172 points in eight games. The Eagles scored a defensive win over Paso Robles last week, winning 21-20 on the road. They've scored 192 points in 2019. Righetti, meanwhile has scored 262 and given up just 88.

Is offensive line play important?

"Always," Arroyo Grande coach Mike Hartman says. "If you have a good offensive line you will be in the game, I don't care how everyone else on the team is doing. Knowing coach Payne's offensive lines, you're in for a long night against his guys. They're playing really well and the offensive line play is a really big key for this game."

There may be some extra motivation for Righetti's offensive line after Arroyo Grande knocked Mortensen out for the season with a big hit that resulted in a broken collarbone in 2018. Righetti won last year's matchup 46-24 at AGHS.

Though Payne favors his offensive line group, he knows his defense will have its hands full against the Eagles' unit.

"It starts and ends in the trenches with Arroyo Grande and it always has," Payne said. "Ever since I was a kid they set the tone running the ball and that's their focus. Nothing has changed. They have some giants up front."

Arroyo Grande has yet to play a game on its home field this year as their stadium is undergoing construction. Hartman's crew will play 10 games in 10 weeks to start the season and will end their regular season next week with a game at Doug Hitchen Stadium vs. St. Joseph, their first actual home game on Senior Night. 

"We’re getting a lot of miles on the bus," Hartman said of that situation. 

Injuries are also wreaking havoc on both squads. In the 42-7 loss to Lancaster Paraclete on Oct. 4, Righetti played without Steels, their star receiver/defensive back who injured his ankle against Dos Pueblos. Arroyo Grande has been without star running back Caleb Tomasin for weeks. 

"We're a little banged up, but that’s what happens when you play eight straight football games," Hartman said. "We’re playing physical teams and so it takes its toll. We've used a fifth-string tailback because he was the healthy guy. When you’re number gets called you're expected to perform.

"No one is 100-percent healthy at this time of year and there’s been a lot of injuries throughout the Central Coast and it seems it's been more significant players. It’s part of the game."

After Friday's game, Righetti travels to play at Paso Robles on Oct. 25 to continue Mountain League play. The Warriors close out the regular season with a game at St. Joseph on Nov. 1. 

Joe Bailey is the sports editor at Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Contact him with tips and story ideas at jbailey@leecentralcoastnews.com or (805) 739-2239. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jbaileysmsports

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