ATWATER — The 2011 Buhach Colony offensive line casts a big shadow.
Victor Garcia knows it all too well.
The then backup offensive lineman often lurked behind high school behemoths such as Matt and Aaron Cochran, Andrew Mark and Aziz Shittu, learning all he could.
Everything about the group was big, from its size, to its notoriety, to its expectations, to the numbers it helped produce on the field.
With the graduation of four of the five, few thought the Thunder could continue to enjoy the kind of running success it has the last couple campaigns.
Members of the 2012 Buhach Colony offensive line counted themselves among that group.
"Our whole line was basically seniors," Garcia said. "We knew we had some good running backs coming back, but the guys stepping in on the line were the question marks.
"Except for Aaron, we're obviously smaller. But once we got our starting five set, we found that we complement each other really well."
Despite giving up 215 pounds and 16 inches to last year's line, the quintet of Aaron Cochran, Garcia, David Waites, George Lopez and Christian Ochoa has produced equal or better numbers than a year ago.
Buhach's 3,899 yards and 51 rushing touchdowns on 464 carries is ahead of where it was at the same time a year ago.
"We've been very impressed by how far and how fast this group has come along," Buhach head coach Kevin Swartwood said. "We knew we had good backs in (Leon) Miles, (Stefon) Gold, (Jayce) Webster, (Tyler) Dew and (Shane) Bell. And we knew if we provided a hole, they could hit it.
"We just weren't certain how many holes we would provide.
"These aren't the same kind of high-profile guys we had a year ago, but they work really well together. With them, the sum of the parts is greater than the whole."
It's not all nameless ambiguity with this group. Aaron Cochran remains one of the top offensive line prospects in the state and is being recruited nationally.
The 6-foot-8, 350-pound tackle already has made official visits to Oklahoma and Nebraska and has a trip to Arizona scheduled.
But Aaron Cochran's workman-like attitude melds perfectly into the rest of The Unit, as the coaching staff has dubbed them.
"We didn't know if we could do it," Waites said. "Replacing guys like Matt and Aziz isn't easy, and there was some pressure that came with it.
"The first three games were kind of iffy. We moved guys in and out of the lineup until we found the five that worked. We've just gotten stronger each week since."
With two years of varsity experience, Aaron Cochran is the line's anchor. Waites and Garcia provided some experience and savvy at the center and tackle positions. Juniors Lopez and Ochoa rounded out the group when they took over as starting guards.
BC hasn't looked back.
The Thunder won their third straight Central California Conference crown by a convincing 26.2-point average margin of victory. The offensive line helped BC wrack up a season-high 513 yards on the ground in a Sac-Joaquin Section first-round victory over McNair last week.
Swartwood is hoping for a similar effort when the No. 5 Thunder travel up to No. 4 Antelope for a quarterfinal showdown Friday night.
"Both teams want to run the ball," Swartwood said. "They'll throw it over the top a little more, but they're going to try and beat you with the run first.
"The team that does the better job of controlling the line of scrimmage is probably the one that's going to move on."