FAIRFAX — Five high school linemen from the BFA Fairfax/Lamoille Union football team make a solid wind block on a cold day, and there’s no doubt a formidable wall on the field.
Kenny Salls, Jon Post, Camden Anderson, Lucas Jones, and Patrick Roling all hail from Lamoille and Stowe.
As linemen, they’re used to life outside the limelight, and the brotherhood they enjoy makes the weekly pounding worth it.
Kenny Salls, a sophomore from Lamoille chuckled as he recalled his journey to the line.
“In fifth grade, I was a lot bigger than the other kids and they told me I looked like a lineman,” said Salls, laughing, “and ever since then I haven’t moved away from the line.”
“I like having the brotherhood with the person next to you on the line,” said Salls. “It’s something you don’t get at other positions.”
Camden Anderson came about his position on the line in much the same way.
“I was supposed to be a tight end, but I was changed to a lineman,” said Anderson, chuckling. “I’m happy, though. When we do what we need to do and help the team, it’s worth it.”
Salls and Anderson play both sides of the field and work closely with one another.
“Kenny and I have a couple of plays where we’ve made good blocks and our backs have run for 60-yard touchdowns,” said Anderson. “Those are fun because you know you’ve done your job.”
When asked what they do on a high school team, the linemen laughed in unison as Anderson volunteered to explain.
“No one knows what we do,” said Anderson, “but we basically make sure the running backs have a space to run, make sure they know where they’re going, make sure they’re not going the wrong way, and keep them safe.”
When asked if they preferred the offensive or defensive line positions, the unanimous answer was defense.
“You get to hit people harder,” said Salls.
The players from Lamoille and Stowe have a long drive to practice each day, but it’s worth it to play the game they love.
“Every day it’s worth it and I enjoy it more and more,” said Anderson.
“The guys from Lamoille and Stowe basically make up the whole line,” added Post. “Our coach tells us we go ‘out of town for our beef.’”
The comment earned a hearty laugh from the group.
Jon Post, a North Carolina native, moved to Vermont in 2010 and joined the Fairfax/LU team in 2018.
“The guys on the team took me right in,” said Post. “I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun on a football team.”
Unlike Salls and Anderson, Post found his calling on the line.
“I’ve always been a big kid, and there aren’t many other sports where you can really thrive as a bigger kid,” said Post. “As soon as I was able to start playing football, that’s what I did, and I’ve been on the line ever since.”
Post plays strictly on the defensive line for the Bullets.
“On the defensive line, you can help the rest of the team perform well by just doing your job. Even if you’re not getting in the backfield making plays, you can hold your gap, do what you’re supposed to do, and make the jobs easier for other people,” explained Post.
Lucas Jones, an offensive lineman for the Fairfax/LU team found himself on the offensive line after shoulder problems made it too hard to play on the defensive line.
After playing other sports in his younger years, Jones found his home on the line.
“None of the other sports give you the rewards you get being a big kid like playing on the line,” said Jones.
Patrick Roling began playing in the second grade, making his start in the Lonestar state. In the winter of his freshman year, he moved to Vermont and joined the Fairfax/LU team in his sophomore year.
Roling began as a lineman, playing both offensive and defensive line in Texas. He now plays middle linebacker for the Bullets.
Roling recalled the game against Poultney as one of his favorites this year.
“It was a hard-fought game and everyone on the line did phenomenal that game,” said Roling.
Playing a defensive position, Roling noted, requires a team effort.
“You can’t have one star on the defense. Jonny takes up a huge gap, and that makes it so much easier for Ty Garon and me to make tackles and do our jobs.”
“We’re a whole team, but we go through something different on the line,” said Roling. “There are so many bruises I find after the game that I didn’t even know I had, but I just love it.”
Fairfax/LU head coach Craig Sleeman was eager to talk about the Stowe and Lamoille players who’ve taken the line for the team.
“It’s a tight-knit group of guys coming from different schools and playing hard for each other,” said Sleeman. “It’s good to see.”
The same starting five played for the team last year, but few of them had varsity experience.
“Only one of the juniors had played three games on varsity before last season, so there was a huge learning curve last year,” said Sleeman. “I can directly contribute our success last season to how well they did offensive line-wise. As they got better and learned what they were doing, we got better and made a late run last year.”
Sleeman noted that the program has benefited greatly from a strong, confident, knowledgeable line.
“Linemen are kind of the gold standard. It’s hard to find linemen that know what they are doing,” said Sleeman. “A lot of times you hear running backs, quarterbacks, and receivers called skill guys, but the offensive linemen are equally skilled.”
“If you have the speed and athletic ability you can play those positions, but if you want to put the hard work in, you can become an offensive lineman; we’re blessed with a group that wants to do that.”