MERRILLVILLE | Matt Sobczak stands out on the Merrillville offensive line.
At 6-foot-5, 270 pounds, he can't be missed on the football field.
So a lot is typically expected out of the senior right tackle. What could finally be seen this season was how hard he worked to hit all of those expectations.
"There's a lot of kids out there that are 6-5, but they're not in shape and not strong enough to play football down after down," coach Zac Wells said, "They have to work into that position, so that they can play and be relied on by their teammates. Matt worked into that position."
Sobczak dropped his weight and picked up his feet.
"People think when they see a big kid that the game of football comes easy to you," Wells said, "but it's about the feet. Matt worked extremely hard at improving that part of his game."
Sobczak is part of a first-year offensive line, with all five starters in their first seasons on the varsity. They've opened holes for the likes of running back DyLon Collins and protected quarterback Jake Raspopovich.
Today, they'll head to Fort Wayne to meet undefeated Snider in the North Semistate. The winner will spend the Thanksgiving holiday week preparing for a state title.
"We don’t put up the numbers we have this year without having guys up front that can’t hold their own," Wells said. "One of keys to our success has been that line came together as a group."
Sobczak broke onto the line after two years on the scout team. He played on the junior varsity on Saturdays while preparing the tough Merrillville defense all week.
Taking the brunt of the Pirates' punishment for two years prepared him for holding back Duneland Athletic Conference defenses on Friday nights this season.
The drive through the playoffs -- which includes wins over Munster, Chesterton, Crown Point and FW Carroll -- isn't that big of a surprise to Sobczak, who said he saw the potential as the line grew closer in the offseason.
"This ride has been amazing," Sobczak said. "It has been about working hard at everything, every day. We knew it would be exciting and a great season, because of how quickly we came together. We set our goals and this was it. We knew if we just played the game we wanted to play, we could accomplish this."
Though he's spent the bulk of his high school career in the shadows, Wells expects Sobczak to play again on Saturdays, this time in college. The senior has only just begun sending out his information, looking for a school with a business or education program, and the need for a 6-5 lineman.
"His best football is in front of him," Wells said. "It's taken some years to get his body in the position to be where we’re at now, and all he has to do is improve his technique, improve his strength and quickness. To be a 6-5, 6-6 kid and he's going to be very strong and he's really going to be a good pick-up for somebody.
"Someone will get really lucky with him."