The seasons Buckeye outside linebacker Dom Monaco and strong safety Logan Steppenbacker are having can be boiled down to three things.
While the duo is unquestionably part of the push the Buckeye football team is having this season, drive, determination and Logan Schulz are big parts of the reason the Bucks are playing in Week 12 for the first time in school history.
As the third-seeded Bucks (10-1) travel to Bedford High School to play second-seeded Kenston (10-1) on Friday in a Division III, Region 9 semifinal, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound defensive end is the cog in the spoke of an opponent’s offense.
If Schulz isn’t making a tackle, he’s occupying opposing linemen and opening a hole for one of his teammates to come rushing in.
“I can trust him,” Monaco said. “I’ve been his friend for 15 years. I know every time I have contain and cut the guy back inside, Logan is going to be right there to hit him. He and I always joke around because he says he’s the reason I get all my tackles. I think all the linebackers can agree when all the teams are focused on him so much, it really makes our job easier.”
Monaco leads the team with 60 tackles, including 16 for loss with three sacks. Steppenbacker is second on the team with 57 sticks and two sacks.
They know when Schulz isn’t making one of his 48 tackles, including 11½ for loss (4 sacks), their job is to rise up and make the play.
“He’s always getting pressure in the backfield,” Steppenbacker said. “He always knows what’s going on. Being a three-year starter, he can help everyone else to know what’s going on. He opens a lot of plays for me to come up and make a tackle. He’s opening up holes and making guys bounce.”
Schulz has been a starter in coach Greg Dennison’s system the last two years. For the senior, in-game action is more read and react at this point and less trying to figure out what’s going to happen pre-snap.
“I’ve learned a lot of things from all the different coaches I’ve had, so everything just falls into place,” Schulz said. “It all feels so natural. You read the offense, go out there and play and do your job. Big games are when the best players play. You have to step up and play for your team.”
An in-your face player before games who gets everyone fired up, Schulz’s knowledge has paid huge dividends for everyone willing to come to him for advice.
It doesn’t matter what style offense other teams are using, Schulz has the answer and knows how to stop it.
“He just knows football,” Monaco said. “Any system you put him in, he attacks the guy with the ball. It’s just his mentality. He’s a fighter. He’ll step up when you need him to.”
Stepping up in big games has become commonplace for Schulz this season. His two sacks went a long way in a 38-35 win over Columbia. It was his quarterback pressure on the last play of the game that forced Jared Bycznski to throw before he wanted to, causing an incomplete pass.
“We lost two of our linebackers last year (Austin Bir and Turner Mitchell), so we knew coming in we would have to play really well up front,” Dennison said. “He’s leading the way. He makes plays sometimes that nobody can make.”
In last week’s 28-25 win over sixth-seeded Alliance, the defensive lineman made eight tackles and forced a run-heavy Aviators squad to go to the air late.
“You love having guys like that,” Dennison said. “I tell our kids all the time if you want to be known as a great player, you have to do it in big games. Great players aren’t made playing against teams that are 2-8. They’re made playing against the good teams when it matters the most.
“When it matters the most, he seems to step up. Even within the game, in key situations he steps up.”
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