COLUMBIA — Battle High School's Brandon Hedrick and Marshall Willingham blew up the tailback dive before it even started.
Hedrick, at the nose guard position, made a quick, strong move to open a hole in the Gateway Tech High School line. Willingham, lined up at inside linebacker, followed him through.
They met the running back together. Guttural noises ensued. Pads smashed together with a loud clap. A helpless running back was thrown backward after suffering a 500-plus-pound embrace.
Watching from the sideline, the Spartans' Malachi Gardner said, "That was a Hedrick and Willingham sandwich!"
The boys' sandwich exemplified their — and the rest of the defense's — hard-nosed play in Battle's 45-7 win over Gateway Tech. Hedrick and Willingham made possible 14 of those points, and their sandwich was one of the highlight plays from the game.
A football sandwich, when two defensive players tackle the ball carrier simultaneously, is a violent group hug, a claustrophobic clutch. Spectators who witnessed the Hedrick-Willingham sandwich couldn't agree what should go on it, but they knew they didn't want any of it.
Donna Ratliff and Dawn Daly — who were actually selling sandwiches in the stands during the game — said a Hedrick-Willingham sandwich should have sour cream, chilli, cheese and jalapenos.
"It's gotta be crazy because Marshall's a little bit crazy," Ratliff said.
"And it's gotta be big because football players are big," Daly said.
"Look for the Marshall Willingham-Hedrick sandwich in the concession stand soon," Ratliff said, both her and Daly laughing at the joke.
But for Dave Mason, the Hedrick-Willingham sandwich was no joking matter. When asked about the sandwich, Mason winced.
"Eww, it'd hurt you. I'm an old guy so it'd hurt me bad. Heartburn, indigestion, rumbling stomach — it'd hurt you," Mason said.
When asked what should be on a Hedrick-Willingham sandwich, Mason replied "hot mustard."
"It'd definitely be hot mustard, 'cause those boys are smoking out there!" he said.
Coach Justin Conyers echoed Mason's sentiments, saying that he was proud of the way Hedrick and Willingham — and the entire defense — played.
That's a sandwich that "can't taste very good. When it goes backwards, I like that sandwich even better. I wanna see that sandwich going in reverse and taking yardage in the opposite direction," Conyers said.
As for the sandwich artists themselves, Hedrick and Willingham were more descriptive. Willingham touted himself as the lettuce and deli meat, and Hedrick said he would be the beef. They both agreed they'd make a double-decker.
"You'd be satisfied, but you'd regret doing it," Hedrick said of anyone who attempted to handle the Hedrick-Willingham sandwich.
"And this guy knows about big sandwiches," Willingham said.
That he does. Hedrick's Thursday night pre-game ritual consists of devouring the two-pound burger at George's. He likes it with bacon and cheese.
"If they had barbecue sauce, I'd put that on it too," he said.
Greg Bowers is supervising editor.