It is only fitting that the most-coveted statistic for football’s larger-than-life offensive linemen is named after a popular breakfast buffet food item.
The sport’s titans of the trenches rack up “pancake” blocks by knocking their defensive opponent on his backside … or flattening him like a pancake.
Northville senior lineman Robbie Schuckel has all the ingredients — prototypical size (6-foot-3, 235 pounds), agility and textbook technique — to cook up a flapjack on any given play.
“I usually get at least one pancake a game,” Schuckel said during a pre-season interview. “They’re the result of a lot of hard work and great coaching.”
Double the production
Given that Schuckel is a two-way lineman — he starts on offense and subs in regularly on the Mustangs’ defensive front — he is a target to get pancaked — but that rarely happens as Northville Head Coach Brent Luplow knows and opposing blockers soon learn.
“Robbie is having a great senior year,” said Luplow, whose team has galloped to a 5-0 start heading into its Friday night homecoming showdown against Salem. “His hard work in the weight room this off-season is paying off on both sides of the ball.
“He brings energy and possesses athleticism that most linemen don’t have. His relentless attitude and leadership abilities have been — and will continue to be — instrumental to our team’s success.”
Schuckel has embraced his role as a selfless blocker and run-stopper since he first strapped on pads for the Northville Stallions junior football program.
Tons of growth — both mind and body
He admitted he’s grown mentally and physically since joining the high school program — although his first season as a freshman in 2020 was all but wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While I’ve grown physically quite a bit the past few years, I’ve probably grown more mentally,” he said. “When I played for the Stallions, I was basically playing for myself. When I got to high school, the coaches have done a great job of emphasizing how important it is to love and play for my teammates.
“Because of this, we’ve really come together as a team, both last year and this season.”
Schuckel said an eye-opening trenches duel against a senior starter when he was in 10th grade taught him the level of tenacity he would have to develop to get to the level he’s achieved.
From destroyee to destroyer
“I got absolutely destroyed by this big varsity lineman named Dominic Green when I was in 10th grade and wasn’t nearly as big as I am now,” Schuckel said.
“After that, I kind of emulated Dominic, asked him about his diet and his training … tried to learn as much as I could from him because he had the physical frame and the ability I wanted to develop.”
Northville linemen’s off-season bond-building excursions included trips to boxing gyms, where they went through the grueling training boxers endure without actually squaring off in the ring against their teammates.
“I love both of my line coaches. They work hard and give us so many opportunities to bring us together,” he said. “They make it easy to work hard.”
Schuckel thought long and hard when asked if there has been a particular offensive drive that has been a highlight for him the past two seasons.
“My favorite play was when Angelo (Rodriguez) scored on that long pass play last year against Canton to seal the (28-19) win,” he said. “But as far as a drive, one doesn’t stand out over the rest. The ones I like the best are the long, sustained drives when we keep pushing the defense back and kind of take control.”
A thrower for the Mustangs’ track-and-field team in the spring, Schuckel is an outstanding student and more than likely someone who is going to be playing on Saturdays beginning in the fall of 2024.
“I have some colleges checking me out — everything from Division 3 to Division 1 schools,” he said. “I’d love to continue playing football after this year because I love the sport and everything it has done for me.”
In other words, playing at the next level would be icing on the cake for Schuckel — or, more appropriately, syrup on the pancakes.
Ed Wright can be reached at 734-664-4657 or email@example.com.