Yellow Jackets’ Lanzendorf just soaking up the moment


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You might figure a guy like Osbourn Park’s Clark Lanzendorf, a 6-foot-5, 285-pound two-way tackle, thinks he deserves to play football.

Lanzendorf, who peppers his speech with ‘oh absolutely’ and an enthusiastic smile, makes it seem like he’s lucky to find himself on the gridiron on fall Fridays.

“I will play as long as I can,” he says. “Until I’m 50 or 60. Or as long as my body holds up.”

His Thanksgiving Day started with the Yellow Jackets’ 8 a.m. practice for tonight’s 7:30 p.m. Group AAA, Division 6 Northwest Region Final at Hylton. Lanzendorf said he also planned to nap and watch football, then wake up on Friday and get ready to play some more football.

“It’s a busy two days,” he joked.

But you know he wouldn’t have it any other way.

The truest indicator of how much Lanzendorf enjoys football came long before the crowd showed up to cheer Osbourn Park to its 10 victories this season.

“The things Clark did when people weren’t watching,” said second-year head coach Brian Beaty. “He probably played last year at 315 or 320, but he lost the weight so he could play both ways. Any time a player puts that kind of time in it, it hurts when you lose.”

His offseason regimen may have increased his desire to win, as well as Osbourn Park’s effectiveness in that pursuit. As much fun as his senior season has been, he knows it could be over with a loss to Hylton, so he still wants to seize the moment.

“In practice, you get to thinking sometimes,” Lanzendorf said. “There’s a possibility that this is our last practice, especially being a senior, and that I’ll never get to do this again, play football at its purest. So you play like it’s your last play.”

The 10-1 Yellow Jackets, fresh off the first district title in school history and a victory in their first playoff appearance since 1988, want to defeat Hylton just to keep the magical season going. But as Lanzendorf points out, it’s also an opportunity to show that the Yellow Jackets are better than they were in a 49-0 week two loss to the Bulldogs.

“Pretty much, a lot of people doubt us still, even in the school,” says Lanzendorf. He said that even when the team gets praised on the morning announcements, people bring up the Hylton game.

“We have to prove we can compete,” he said. “I think the mental aspect is probably the biggest [hurdle to overcome], especially with Hylton having won two state titles. That’s what happened to us last game.”

With his father in the U.S. Army, Lanzendorf began playing football in Tennessee and Pennsylvania, before coming to OP in the ninth grade. Though accustomed now to the “grunt work” performed by tackles, Lanzendorf started his football career in pursuit of the big glory.

“My first practice, I wanted to be a quarterback,” he laughs, recalling how big he was even then. “As soon as coach saw me, he said ‘you’re going to be a center.'”

Instead of finding himself under center, he became one, and he’s been a lineman ever since. He described the most fun he has on the field: double-teaming a defender with fellow 6-5, 280-pounder Zak Stair.

In Osbourn Park’s single-wing offense, running back Roland Hilliard gets most of the carries — and recognition. But the 5-8, 175-pound back’s 1,266 yards have come behind Lanzendorf, Stair, Dustin Diaz, Eric Tarnovsky, Tyler Dean and tight end David Beachy.

“I don’t think [the average fan] appreciates what we do,” he says. “It’s not as glorious, we don’t score touchdowns. But absolutely, [quarterback] Doug [Suliga] and Roland, they seem to appreciate the work we do.”

Though he dined with the offensive lineman the day before Thanksgiving and feels his personality is more suited to offensive line, Lanzendorf actually made waves as a defensive tackle up until this season, his sixth in football.

Beaty said Lanzendorf’s duties were limited because of concerns about his endurance. His success as part of a high-powered offense and a defense that posted seven shutouts is a result of him showing up to two-a-days in great shape.

As an integral part of a team 60 minutes from being regional champion, Lanzendorf is just living in the moment.

“This season has just been a dream,” he said. “We’ve accomplished the goals we’ve been trying to accomplish for three or four years.”

All except one.

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