The painstaking process is paying off.
After graduation ripped away a class of 28 seniors from Gatesville, the Hornets opened the 2013 season with only one returning starter on the offensive line.
The unit was in the midst of a total reconstruction.
One year later, the project appears to be nearing completion.
Gatesville finished ninth at the inaugural State Lineman Challenge hosted by Hardin-Simmons University on Friday. While Hornets head coach Kyle Cooper would have preferred a stronger showing, he remains excited about the group’s collective potential.
“I really think we have grown some guys up,” he said. “I know football starts up front, and I think on both sides of the ball, both our offensive line and our front seven have a chance to be very good. ... I know I’m an old tight end, and I’m an old O-line guy, but I just believe it starts up front, and I think we are going to be pretty good there.”
Split into two groups, Gatesville competed in Division II, scoring 15 points to finish sandwiched between Cuero (18) and Cisco (14) to round out the top 10 of the 13-team field.
Constructed much like the 7-on-7 season, teams of linemen spent their summer participating in competitions and attempting to qualify for state at various regional tournaments.
There are seven events, including bench press, truck push, dumbbell stack relay, obstacle course and tug of war, involving various members of the team with points distributed based on combined performances.
“We wanted to do something to get the linemen from around the state competing,” Hardin-Simmons head coach Jesse Burleson said on the school’s athletic website. “These guys really get into it, and it is an intense competition.”
Rogers won the Division II championship with 58 points, while Hawley (36), Fort Worth All Saints (35), Graham (31) and Stockdale (25) rounded out the top five.
In Division I, with 80 points, Wylie easily emerged with the championship, beating second-place Arlington by 30 points. Abilene (37), Georgetown (35) and Saginaw Boswell (27) followed in the final standings.
The ultimate outcome was inconsequential to Cooper, though. His only true concerns when it comes to the offseason are conditioning and camaraderie.
“To me, winning is not the most important thing,” he said. “Even for 7-on-7, that’s not why we do it. The kids get a chance to leave here, hang out for the summer and spend time together. The linemen got to stay at a hotel, eat a couple of nice meals, be around each other, swim, bond, and that’s what it is all about to me.
“I want to see them compete, and I want to see them give full effort, but results are secondary.”