Camden Tweedie, left, and Nick Deblois after football practice Thursday at Winthrop High School. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

WINTHROP — Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale football coach Dave St. Hilaire knows what he can expect to see whenever he watches film of either Ian Steele or Jevin Smith or Logan Baird catching a screen pass.

He’ll see the back making defenders miss downfield. And he’ll see the guards, Camden Tweedie and Nick Deblois, matching him stride for stride, knocking them out of the way.

“It’s fun to watch them,” St. Hilaire said. “Whether it’s a pull or whether it’s a screen pass, you look and there’s our center and two guards 30 yards downfield getting blocks.”

Tweedie and Deblois, along with center Shane Tweedie and tackles Harland Frake and Pat Rush, have formed what has been an excellent offensive line for Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale this season. While the Ramblers have gone 7-1 en route to the No. 1 seed in Class D South, they’ve averaged 7.1 yards per carry and 221.8 rushing yards per game, and quarterback Keegan Choate has been sacked only twice.

For the guards, however, it’s been a whole new game. Tweedie is only in his second year playing the position. Deblois is in his first. And St. Hilaire said it’s hard to tell that with either of them.

We throw different formations in every week, pretty much. It’s still the same up front, but it’s different formations,” he said. “They’ve done a great job of picking that up. The physical aspect was the easiest, but they weren’t far behind with the Xs and Os.”

The guards acknowledged that they’ve found a rhythm at their new homes, even if learning the ins and outs of the guard position — which incorporates everything from pass blocking to run blocking to pulling and trapping — was a tough adjustment at first.

You have to know a lot of different formations, and how you block is not at all based on what the actual play is a lot of the time. So it’s a lot of adjusting,” Tweedie said. “And I had to get used to pass blocking. It was a lot different from anything I had ever done.”

Winthrop head coach David St. Hilaire runs an indoor football practice Thursday at Winthrop High School. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

Deblois noticed the same learning curve.

“At first I was a little nervous about it, just because the biggest problem was learning new plays,” he said. “The first couple of weeks I wasn’t very good at pulling and all that stuff, getting through the gap and trying to pick up the first guy I saw. But after that, it was kind of second nature.”

Take a look at Tweedie or Deblois, however, and you don’t see your prototypical offensive lineman. You see a running back, which is what both the 5-8, 160-pound Tweedie and 5-9, 170-pound Deblois were before.

They were buried on the depth chart at fullback, however, and St. Hilaire came to both of them — Tweedie before last year, Deblois before this one — to suggest the new position and the increased playing time that would come with it.

“We hit (Camden) up at a weightlifting session and he was all for it, so he went right into the weight room and got himself ready,” St. Hilaire said. “(Then this year) we hit Nick up at spring camp and we said ‘We’d like to move you to guard.’ He was third-string fullback. … We knew he was hungry for some playing time. Third-string fullback, you’re not going to see the field a lot.”

It can be tough, St. Hilaire acknowledged, for players to go from the spotlight of the skill positions to the unsung nature of the offensive line, but both Tweedie and Deblois said they were happy to make the moves.

The main thing about football is just hitting. I really like hitting. Hitting’s the best part of the game,” Deblois said. “(And) the whole offensive line, the stats, letting up (two) sacks for the varsity, it’s like a mini family on a huge family.”

Tweedie and Deblois had to learn the playbook from a different angle, but that was only part of the acclimation process. When you’re small even for a running back and you’re suddenly playing guard, you’re at a constant size disadvantage — and, more often than not, decisively so.

I had to work out a lot to be able to make it here, but still, it’s definitely tough because most of the people I’m blocking are at least 60 to 80 pounds heavier than me,” Tweedie said. “I just have to go low, get a good grip on them, hit them first and don’t lose too much ground.”

Get them pulling, however, and suddenly Tweedie’s and Deblois’s size becomes an advantage. With their speed and quickness, both have the ability to get out ahead of the ballcarriers and open holes through which they can run.

“As we’re running 30 yards downfield, they’re picking up a second block, sometimes a third block,” St. Hilaire said. “If you get a big lineman they’re going to get there, but they’re not going to be in the picture to block. They’re just there. … These guys pick up blocks.”

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