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Michigan and Ohio State commits on the same offensive line? St. Edward teammates still have strong bond

Michigan commit Ben Roebuck and Ohio State commits Devontae and Deontae Armstrong are a big reason St. Edward is one of the top high school football teams in the country

LAKEWOOD, OHIO – It isn’t very often that when a high school football team takes the field, the first players the fans are looking at are the offensive linemen. But then again, not many teams can trot out an offensive line quite like the St. Edward Eagles.

The offensive line has three senior leaders - left guard Devontae Armstrong stands at 6-foot-5, 305 pounds, his twin brother Deontae Armstrong is at left tackle at 6-foot-7, 295 pounds and Ben Roebuck plays right tackle at 6-foot-8, 320 pounds.

It isn’t every day that the Armstrongs find someone who is bigger than the two of them, as they have been the biggest kids on their team growing up before teaming up with Roebuck.

“This was definitely a first,” Devontae Armstrong said, as he and his brother both laughed. “I was just in awe at first of Ben. I was like ‘wow, there’s finally somebody out there bigger than us.’”

When it comes to the twins, Devontae says Deontae “always had an inch on me, but I was wider.”

The two juniors who fill out the offensive line aren’t small, either, as center Archer Soltis is 6-foot-2, 305 pounds and right guard Sawyer Prementine clocks in at 6-foot-3, 270 pounds.

While the three seniors often get top billing, running back Joshua Groudle appreciates the work of all five guys and sees the help the juniors have received from the seniors.

“I will say the entire line (helps our offense), not just those three guys,” Groudle said earlier this season after a win over Center Grove (Indiana) at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. “But those three big guys gave them the best mentorship you could ever ask for. That offensive line as a group paves the way for us running backs. We couldn’t do anything without them.”

In that win over Center Grove, the offensive line opened up a hole for Groudle to score a touchdown early in the game and the running back laughed about it afterwards.

“Our O-line, I mean it all starts down there, those guys made huge holes,” Groudle said. “The first touchdown, you could have drove a truck through that thing.”

St. Edward offensive line coach Dan Scanlon has seen the mentorship the running back speaks of on a daily basis.

“Ben is at right tackle, and I have Sawyer Prementine at right guard and Ben will always be talking to him about ‘look for this situation, do this, do that,’” Scanlon said. “Same thing with the Armstrongs, they’re always coaching up the young guys.”

And while the offensive line has the size to play football at a high level, they also have the smarts to do so as well.

“(They have) the mental part of it too,” Scanlon said. “They understand what we are trying to do upfront. But they're physical, too. Like I tell them all the time, if you're not physical, it doesn't matter what play we run, it’s not going to work.”

St. Edward offensive linemen Ben Roebuck (No. 76), Devontae Armstrong (No. 71) and Deontae Armstrong (No.79) await the coin toss against River Rouge (Michigan) on Saturday, September 23, 2023. (Photo credit: Jeff Harwell)

St. Edward offensive linemen Ben Roebuck (No. 76), Devontae Armstrong (No. 71) and Deontae Armstrong (No.79) await the coin toss against River Rouge (Michigan) on Saturday, September 23, 2023. (Photo credit: Jeff Harwell)

And when an offensive line has three guys the size of the Armstrongs and Roebuck who are willing to put in the work and also understand the mental side of the game, calling plays gets a little easier.

“It gives our offense a lot of confidence that we have three guys that we know can make any block on the field,” Roebuck said. “Coach loves running behind us, we can run either side of the line, how we're split up right and left. That gives our coaches supreme confidence that we can run the ball wherever, whenever we want.”

Against one of the toughest schedules in Ohio, the Eagles have run the ball 206 times for 849 yards and 15 touchdowns. The most impressive stat that shows just how good the offensive line is at creating holes is that ballcarriers for St. Edward have 54 percent of their yards before first contact.

The players say that the leadership and effectiveness on the offensive line can be credited right back to the guy who runs the show up front.

“It’s just a testament to our offensive line coach,” Devontae Armstrong said. “Without him, we would just be big guys out there not knowing what’s going on. So, it’s kudos to our coaching staff and our offensive line coach preparing us week after week.”

And while the coaching staff is preparing the players, the players are also preparing each other. That doesn’t just mean the offensive linemen helping the offensive linemen, it also means them helping the players on the other side of the ball.

Senior pass rusher Loghan Thomas is the No. 5 ranked player in the state of Ohio in 2024 by 247Sports. The Notre Dame commit said he had seen the offensive line play when he had made trips to Ohio to visit family prior to transferring to St. Edward from Katy Paetow High School in Texas.

“That just made it easier for me to come here,” Thomas said. “Going against the best every day only makes me better and only gets them better. So it's truly been fun going against them every day.”

After winning back-to-back state Division I state championships, the Eagles have started this season 5-1 and sat atop the SBLive Ohio Power 25 for most of the season until a loss to Massillon in Week 5 (St. Edward was without starting quarterback Casey Bullock) and are currently No. 5, while also being ranked No. 14 in the SBLive/Sports Illustrated Power 25 nationally, where the Eagles had a high-water mark of No. 8.

Now it is rivalry week for the Eagles, who host St. Ignatius on Saturday at First Federal Lakewood Stadium.

And when it comes to rivalries, the Armstrongs and Roebuck are on the same side for this one but will be on opposite sides starting next season as Devontae and Deontae are committed to play at Ohio State and Ben is headed to Michigan.

For Devontae (ranked No. 19 in Ohio by 247Sports) and Deontae (ranked No. 20 in Ohio), it wasn’t necessarily a plan all along to go to the same school. But they found the perfect fit with Ryan Day in Columbus.

“We both like the same things and it kind of meshed together,” Deontae Armstrong said. “If I wouldn’t have liked something he liked about another school, we would have separated but obviously that wasn’t the case.”

As for Roebuck (ranked No. 18 in Ohio), his place was in Ann Arbor with Jim Harbaugh. All three players are considered three-star recruits.

“We had a lot of same offers, but it really just came down to where we wanted to go,” Roebuck said. “And I know we're (all) happy with where we're going, and we will each other for a couple years. It'll be a pretty good experience.”

But if you think that the rivalry between Ohio State and Michigan is going to come between the three, think again.

“It’s all good, we all try to motivate each other,” Deontae Armstrong said. “There’s no real animosity or anything like that. We are at each other’s houses every weekend. It propels us forward.”

“It’s close-knit relationship on and off the field,” adds Devontae.

And the three aren’t worried about the future just yet because there is still work to be done on the high school gridiron.

“It’s Eagles season right now, St. Ed’s season,” Roebuck said. “And we’re brothers for life.”

-- Ryan Isley | | @sbliveoh