MANSFIELD — Anthony Hawkins and his linemates can be forgiven for not recognizing Grantland Rice’s seminal account of Notre Dame’s 13-7 win over Army on Oct. 18, 1924.
But the iconic sportswriter would almost certainly appreciate Mansfield Senior’s version of the Four Horsemen.
Famine, Pestilence, Destruction and Death took up residence last week at Arlin Field in the form of Hawkins, Ty’Lheir Grose, Clay Caudill and Alijah Grose. And as Rice so eloquently noted almost 100 years earlier, they formed the crest of a cyclone that swept another team over the precipice.
“It’s tough to block those guys,” Senior High coach Chioke Bradley said last week after the Tygers stymied reigning regional champ Norwalk, 21-10, in the season opener. “They are relentless.”
Defensive coordinator Sean Adams began referring to the down linemen as the Four Horsemen during the summer.
“He started calling us that and it stuck,” said Hawkins, a senior defensive tackle who committed to Bowling Green in July. “He’s put a lot into us and we want to keep him happy.”
If last week’s performance is any indication, Adams will be smiling well after the leaves have changed color.
Mansfield Senior’s defensive unit limited the Truckers to 263 yards and surrendered just three points. Norwalk’s lone touchdown was the result of a pick-six late in the second quarter.
“We’re only as strong as our line, both defensively and offensively,” said Hawkins, who moonlights as a tackle on offense. “We expect a lot out of ourselves.”
Senior High’s front four had the unenviable task of finding a way around Norwalk’s Trey Leroux. The colossal 6-foot-8, 330-pound senior tackle verbally committed to Ohio State in March.
“It was definitely a good challenge and I feel like I stepped up to the plate,” said University of Toledo-bound senior defensive end Clay Caudill, who spent most of the night knocking heads with Leroux. “Our philosophy is to go fast and go hard. That’s our identity and that’s how we’re going to win games.”
The Truckers had all sorts of problems handling Senior High’s speed up front. Norwalk was flagged 13 times for 144 yards and no fewer than five of those penalties were for offensive holding.
“We’re hungry and we’ve all got something to prove. We’ve all got a chip on our shoulders,” said senior defensive tackle Ty’Lheir Grose, who, like Hawkins and Caudill, has started since his freshman year. “We feel like we have one of the best defensive lines in the state.”
Alijah Grose was limited in the opener after injuring himself in pregame warmups. Senior Donovan Haney filled in at defensive end and the Tygers also got solid production on the interior from freshman Mekhi Bradley, the head coach’s son.
“We wanted to make a conscious effort to impose our will up front with our D-line guys,” Chioke Bradley said. “The defensive coaching staff does a really great job of pushing those guys and putting an emphasis on being relentless at the point of attack.”
The Tygers will have to be at their relentless best going forward. Senior High added defending regional runner-up Sandusky to the non-conference schedule this year in addition to Ohio Cardinal Conference games against 2018 playoff qualifiers West Holmes, Lexington and Wooster.
With the Four Horsemen leading the charge, Adams like his team’s chances.
“They’re quick, they’re big, they’re fast and they’re coachable. That’s a good combination,” Adams said. “We’re happy we have the Four Horsemen on our side.”