It’s a thankless job. Their statistics do not appear in the newspaper. The public address announcer does not announce their names when the team scores a touchdown. Despite playing one of the most physical positions on the field, offensive linemen receive little recognition from the general public.
Thanks to longtime sportscaster Keith Jackson, linemen are often referred to as “Big Uglies.” Inside the locker room, however, quarterbacks, running backs, receivers and coaches alike revere linemen for their selfless approach to the game.
Gatesville is no different.
“I think big boys make the world go around,” said Hornets head coach Kyle Cooper, who is a former offensive line coach. “And I’m not just talking gravitational mass either. That is what you build around, and without them, you are nothing.”
Undefeated through 13 games, Gatesville faces Graham (12-1 overall) in a Class 3A, Division II quarterfinal game at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Stephenville with the winner earning the Region I championship and advancing one step closer to a state championship.
While offensive playmakers, like quarterback Cole Edmiston and running back Jake Kee, have garnered a majority of the glory throughout the season, Cooper and all his players know the seven core members of the offensive line deserve a significant amount of credit for Gatesville’s success.
And, as long as the Hornets’ linemen are appreciated by their teammates, they are happy.
“Cole and Jake come up to us and say, ‘Hey, if it wasn’t for you, we wouldn’t be doing this,’” senior quick end Justin Burgan said. “I don’t care that they get the recognition. I’m just happy to play for them.”
With the offensive line clearing the way, the Hornets had the most well-rounded offense of any team is District 8-3A during the regular season, scoring the second-most points (383) and producing the second-most total yards (4,061). Gatesville also displayed the most balance with a mere 67 yards separating the passing (2,064) and rushing (1,997) totals.
“We just execute every play that we can,” senior guard Pedro Rodriguez said. “We block hard, take nice steps and execute. (That is the goal) on every play.”
The balanced production has continued in the playoffs, where the Hornets are averaging 202.7 rushing yards, 221.0 passing yards and 41.7 points per game in three postseason victories.
At the middle of it all is senior center Trevor Barton, who is far more concerned with outcomes than acknowledgment.
“You get use to it,” the 6-foot-4, 280-pounder said. “By the time you get to varsity, you know how it goes. You are just happy to be winning. Nobody on the team plays because they get in the paper. They play to be with their friends and be a part of something bigger than themselves.”
And when it comes to offensive linemen, bigger is better.
Along with Barton, Burgan and Rodriguez, seniors Chase Meyer, Elijah Crosby, Zak Hudspeth and junior Derick Waters comprise the offensive line and average around 250 pounds apiece.
Coupled with the ability to protect equally well whether the Hornets are running or passing allows Cooper to diversify his playbook and attack opposing defenses in a multitude of ways.
“When you talk about the versatility of our team, we ask a lot of those guys,” Cooper said. “But they care about their team. They are not worried about themselves, and they don’t care who gets the credit.”
In fact, Burgan enjoys giving credit to his teammates when they score, and he does not care how they do it.
“If you want to throw it, we can block for you,” the 260-pounder said. “If you want to run it, we can run for you. We will run downfield with you and slap your butt in the end zone.”