Kilgore’s Powerful Rushing Attack Made Possible By Dominant Offensive Line
KILGORE -- They are the biggest men on the field. Yet to the average observer, the most invisible.
An offensive lineman rarely seeks out attention, but don't let that fool you. Praise is welcome.
"We like getting (recognized)," said Kilgore senior center Nolan Grush. "We like getting a little mention every now and then."
In the case of Kilgore, it's become awfully difficult to ignore its offensive line. For the season, the Bulldogs' run-heavy offense has racked up almost 5,000 yards on the ground. And that doesn't happen without a solid collection of big men up front.
"We root everything back to technique and the little things," said Kilgore head coach Mike Wood. "And with an offensive line, that's where you build it from. (Offensive line coach Keith Meyers) does such a great job with those kids, building a foundation with them in technique and certainly spending enough time as it takes in the weight room, then taking that to Friday night. That group has been together for a while and they believe in themselves. They believe that how they play will determine the outcome of the ballgame."
And while Kilgore's offensive line may go unnoticed to the vast majority of fans, it certainly has the respect from the rest of the team.
"I have to give a shout-out to the offensive line," Kilgore quarterback Benny Colbert said after the Bulldogs' 44-6 semifinal win over Stephenville last week, in which Kilgore was able to impose its will by running for 478 yards.
Colbert and running backs Kevrin Justice and Davieonta "JuJu" Brown realize that without the group of front, their season would've ended a long time ago.
"It means a lot because we don't get a lot of recognition," said Kilgore junior left tackle Blake Guthrie. "To have two or three backs like that to go work and give all they can, it makes us want to block harder for them."
Case in point: on Kilgore's first offensive series of last week's game, Colbert ran into a wall of Stephenville defenders inside the opponents' 10-yard line. Guthrie literally got behind Colbert and pushed him forward, all the way to the 1.
"I saw him and it looked like he was falling and I said, 'no, he's going to get a little bit more,'" Guthrie said of the play.
It was a sign of things to come as Kilgore's offensive line was able to push Stephenville around throughout.
"It was very satisfying," said senior left guard Clay Wiley of last week's performance. "We peaked, or we came close to peaking because I think that was one of the best games we've played together as a group, instead of just us as individuals. We got all of our assignments correct and when you make no mistakes, that's the outcome."
Kilgore's last three opponents know exactly how dominant the Bulldogs' O-line can be. Kilgore enters Friday's Class 3A Division I state championship against Carthage averaging 491.3 rushing yards over their last three games.
"You've got to be willing to get your hands dirty," Grush said. "Really, you just have to go out there and do your job with no exceptions. You get it done or you don't."
Aside from the technical aspects, chemistry along the offensive front may be the most important ingredient to successful line play.
"That's a group that you'll find hanging out together," Wood said. "They're going to be close; they're the ones that spend as much time in meetings as anybody. And they do more communications on the field, and certainly blocking schemes and different things. That group needs to be a real close-knit group."
Added Wiley: "We take a lot of pride in the offensive line. Being a part of it is like a family. We all grew up together, we come out here every day together and we see each other every day."
Wood echoed those sentiments.
"It's a trust issue with our kids," he said. "Those backs and that quarterback trust those guys to block and protect them and create some running lanes for them. They know that without those guys they're not going to have a chance to be successful. That's just part of being a family and part of being a football team, realizing that you can't do it by yourself."
The Kilgore linemen expect a challenge Friday from a Carthage defense they scrimmaged in mid-August, a unit that's elevated its play during the playoffs by allowing just 12.4 points per game in the postseason.
"They've definitely got what it takes to give us a fight," Grush said. "We've got to come out and play with great technique and take care of our assignments. They've got a bunch of talent on their D-line and their linebacking group is pretty good, too."
Wood understands the potential problems Carthage's defensive front can create.
"They're so athletic and they've gotten so much better than when we played them back in August when we scrimmaged them," Wood said. "The athleticism that they have and the speed that they have on defense is something we're certainly going to have to deal with. Those guys fly around to the football and you're usually going to see four or five of them on a tackle."