The term ‘bookend tackles’ could never be more apropos than it is describing the Citrus High offensive line.
At left tackle there’s Joseph Bartoli, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound senior. At right tackle there’s Jacob Bartoli, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound senior.
No, the science classes on the Inverness campus aren’t tinkering around with cloning. The Bartolis are twins, and have played pivotal roles in the Hurricanes jumping out to a 3-0 start.
“It doesn’t hurt to have two kids who are 6-4, 240-pound offensive tackles who can run,” Citrus head coach Robert O’Brien said. “It’s nice to have that size and athleticism, but the questions they ask in practice are what make us better on offense.
“It helps everyone learn. It helps the offense, it helps the defense. Shoot, it helps the coaches. It’s great for the whole team to have guys who think about their position, not just play it.”
Not that they haven’t contributed under the Friday night lights, starting at their respective spots full-time since last season, after seeing their initial varsity action as sophomores. Joseph was an All-Chronicle selection in 2018, and Jacob was among a handful of players submitted for consideration by then Citrus head coach Nate Varnadore.
Thus far the ’Canes have rushed for 676 yards and nine touchdowns, and thrown for 309 yards and three scores. O’Brien credits the work of the offensive line, which also includes center Danny Haeser, guards Hunter Beyer and Tanner Short, as well tight end Brandon Candrilli.
“It’s hard to say any one spot above the others. However, the offensive line has made the biggest improvement from last year to this year,” O’Brien said. “They care about each other, they care about their backs, they want to see those guys score touchdowns. When that starts happening, it’s a beautiful thing to watch.”
Conversely, the two brothers spoke glowingly of O’Brien and his new offensive system.
“I think we’re doing really, really good, but we can always improve,” Jacob Bartoli said. “I’d say we’re doing all right, but I see a lot of growth and areas I can improve at.
“It’s been amazing. Coach (O’Brien) has been really good. He changed our offensive scheme to a very fast tempo. I think we’ve all been buying in.”
“I have high expectations because it’s my senior year,” Joseph Bartoli said. “I went to all the practices in the offseason. Over the summer we worked very hard. It’s very fun to play and I feel it’s all been coming together.”
These two of have played together since their youth football days and their relationship has influenced their performance on and off the field.
“We’re always pushing each other, not just on the football field,” Joseph said. “We’re always making sure we’re on top of everything. We push each other to be better.”
“I think it’s great,” Jacob said. “You always know on the other side (of the line) there’s somebody over there getting his job done.”
They actually get to line up next to one another in a couple offensive sets, named thunder or lightning depending on which side of the line.
“It’s really cool,” Jacob said. “We just dominate the people in front of us when that happens.”
Neither brother knows if he’ll play in college, so this season could not only represent their last time playing organized football but their last time doing so together.
“I do kind of think about it,” Joseph said. “This might be the year we split up.”
All the more reason to make the most of the time they have left with the ’Canes, and so far things have gone pretty well.
“Our goal is to make it to the playoffs,” Joseph said. “My personal goal is for our offense to keep growing. I know we lean on our defense, but I don’t want to do that anymore. Our offense has been growing and growing and getting better.”
“I think we definitely can make it to the playoffs,” Jacob said. “We’ve just got to take it each week. Go 1-0 each week and get better each week.”