Football Wilson

Football: Chemistry Key For Wilson Offensive Line

Wilson Offensive Line (front to back) Jaylen Ferrera, Justin Navarro, Terren Monette, Adrian Tejada, Jakob Belton

I knew the Wilson offensive line was a true band of brothers when I asked to write a feature about one of them for the preview of the Big Game against Long Beach Poly.

Instead of sending me one player to represent the unit, Wilson coach Mark Ziegenhagen shrugged and said, “I think you’re going to have to do a story on all of them. They won’t do it alone.”

Right tackle Jakob Belton, right guard Justin Navarro, center Terren Monette, left guard Jaylen Ferrera and left tackle Adrian Tejada didn’t want one guy leading the way because that’s not how they play. These five seniors have grown together into one of the best offensive lines that Wilson has had in recent years.

“They’ve done really well the last couple of years molding as a group,” Wilson offensive line coach Brian Kane said. “I’m very proud of the work they’ve put in to become a good offensive line. It’s because of them that we’re at where we’re at today.”

Wilson and it’s fantastic front five are getting the biggest challenge of their football careers against Long Beach Poly tonight, and they’ll be relying on their chemistry to keep the Jackrabbits at bay.

“They’re all great kids but their personalities are all completely different,” Kane said. “Once they’re on the field they come together as a group that challenges each other. That comes from time together and bonding. It’s awesome to see it all work.”

Wilson running backs are currently averaging almost six yards per carry with 12 rushing touchdowns behind Belton, Navarro, Monette, Ferrera and Tejada.

Tejada (6’6” 280 lbs.) has the most experience after getting called up to the Varsity squad as a sophomore. Belton (6’7” 290 lbs.) has quickly grown into great looking tackle, and Monette (6’2” 230 lbs.) is a natural team leader who has been playing football for nine years. Both guards Navarro (6’1” 260 lbs.) and Ferrera (6’2” 280 lbs.) have missed a year of football at Wilson, but got right back into the fold when they returned.

When I got to Wilson on Wednesday for the interview, Ziegenhagen asked if I wanted to talk to them in the Fat Cave. Obviously I had questions.

“Last year, Christian Conrad found this old coaches office under (the visitors bleachers) and asked if the offensive lineman could use it,” Ziegenhagen said as he opened the door to what can only be described as a glorified walk-in closet.

The Fat Cave is a long room about ten-feet wide that has old couches and chairs pushed up against lockers and unused showers. I say unused because of how it smelled in there.

I politely declined to do the interview in the Fat Cave, but I already had a sense that these five lineman were a special group that wants to ride chemistry and confidence to the top.

We walked to the middle of the field to take a quick picture and talk before practice…

Question: All five of you were on the Wilson freshman football team together. That was the first year of football for Justin (Navarro) and Jaylen (Ferrera) but did you guys ever think about how you could end up being a senior starting offense line together?

Belton: Yes. We all had the same mentality. We all knew we were going to finish this together as a team, as a group and as a brotherhood.

Q: Were you guys any good as freshman?

Monette: We went 4-5-1, and even though we weren’t winning games, we knew we had talent. Since freshman year we’ve been saying that senior year is going to be the one (when it all comes together).

Q: Tejada and Monette got called up to the Varsity squad as sophomores. Was there any jealousy from the other three of you?

Belton: It showed us that we needed to step it up so we could be one unit again.

Ferrera: I also dislocated my shoulder twice that season. I knew I could have played up with them if I didn’t get hurt.

Tejada: I just took the opportunity and ran with it.

Q: When you got back together as juniors…

Navarro: Actually, I made a bad decision and quit after sophomore year. During my junior year I knew that I messed up and probably made the worst decision of my life. So I had to come back and ball out my senior year with my boys.

Q: Did the rest of you guys miss Navarro?

Ferrera: Every time we’d see him we’d tell him to come back to football.

Tejada: I felt betrayed.

Q: Justin, was it watching these guys play on Friday night that made you want to come back?

Navarro: Yeah. Knowing that I let them down kind of drove me to want to come back.

Q: Is there something specific that you guys did during the summer that’s helped you this season?

Monette: Bleachers. When we’re running the bleachers everyone is tired and we’re all in the back together saying, ‘We got this and when season comes it will be easy.’

Belton: I agree, it’s our conditioning. I was usually struggling the most but I had these four guys pushing me though it.

Q: Is there a game this year when you realized that you guys were good enough to improve this whole team?

Monette: Mayfair. The first game. It got our confidence up and showed us we were a good unit.

Ferrera: You have to have your confidence up or you won’t play well. We have to give props to (offensive line coach Brain Kane) because he always pushes us.

Q: It’s going to be a crazy atmosphere on Friday, so how will you stay calm?

Navarro: We have to play it like a regular game. Keep our composure and play as a unit.

Q: When you watch football on TV do you watch ball or the lineman?

Belton: It’s a little bit of both. Sometimes I’m watching the lineman thinking about what it’s going to be like at the next level. But then I also just watch games because I like football.

Navarro: I do the same. I’m watching the nice catch and the lineman. I analyze their stance and how they get off the ball.

Monette: I like when the commentators break down the lineman technique.

Q: Which one of you eats the most?

All: Adrian!

Tejada: Yeah. I like pasta. Fettuccine Alfredo.

Q: Who is the funniest of the group?

All: Terren!

Monette: I like Kevin Hart, and Dave Chappelle too.

Q: Who studies the best, or the most, in school?

All: Adrian!

Tejada: When I take down notes it just sticks in my head.

Q: Who is the most likely to fall asleep during film on Saturday?

All: Jakob!

Belton: Well, I usually sit right in the front so coach wakes me up like, ‘JAKOB!’

Q: Is it frustrating that other offensive players get all the credit?

Monette: As an offensive lineman we already know we’re last to fame. So as long as the team is winning, and everybody knows we’re doing our job, we’re good.

Belton: Behind closed doors we get the credit that we deserve. It’s great to hear the coaches say, ‘O-line killed it today!’

JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.