Offensive line sparks Kewpies

Hickman runners have found huge holes recently.
Wednesday, November 19, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:57 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

They might not elude defenders en route to the end zone. They might not intercept passes or throw touchdown passes.

They will, though, determine the success of the Hickman Kewpies in the playoffs.

Hickman’s offensive line will look to dominate at 1:30 p.m. Saturday against the No. 1 Blue Springs Wildcats in the semifinals of the Class 6 state playoff at Hickman.

Hickman is 8-3, and Blue Springs is 11-0. The winner meets the Lindbergh-Hazelwood Central winner Nov. 28 in the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis for the state title.

Joe Gaboury, a tight end who blocks, said the lack of publicity doesn’t bother him.

“Watching Brandon (Ken-drick) run into the end zone is enough of a reward for me,” Gaboury said. “I think the attention gets to your head so I like being the unsung hero.”

Although many fans might not pay attention to the play of or players on the offensive line, their teammates acknowledge their hard work.

“It all starts with our offensive line,” quarterback Blake Tekotte said. “They just maul guys up front. They’ve shown a lot of improvement.”

Before the season, coach Gregg Nesbitt switched from a option offense to one with more passing in an attempt to keep Tekotte healthy. Players on the offensive line said they knew Tekotte’s health was a priority.

“We know that if Blake gets hit too many times he is going to be hurting,” center Luke Harper said. “We just try to give him as long as we can when he has the ball. If he has the ball for a long enough time we know he’ll make something happen and that’s why we’ll do whatever we can to keep him protected.”

Early in the season, the line struggled because of a lack of size. Nesbitt said the line has improved, though, after facing bigger lines.

“We thought we could be a solid offensive line, we just didn’t think we’d be an overpowering line, but we have been,” Nesbitt said. “We’ve battled guys who are bigger size-wise, and I think that is one of the reason they have gotten better and better.

“What we thought was a weakness has been really a strength.”

During the preseason, Nesbitt approached senior Adam Perkins about moving from fullback to the line. Although Perkins was an All-District fullback in 2002, he agreed to the switch.

“Perkins was kind of a missing link,” Nesbitt said. “We moved him to the offensive interior not knowing how well he’d do, but he took to it like water. We knew in the second or third day that he was going to be the answer.”

As the season has progressed, the offensive line has made many improvements, most noticeably in the running game.

On Sept. 26 against Oak Park, Kendrick rushed for 117 yards on 17 carries. It was the first time a Kewpies running back had rushed for more than 100 yards in the season.

“I think why we have improved is because we have a lot of heart and we love each other,” Gaboury said. “We fit together and we work hard. It has all seemed to come together at the end of the year.”

In addition to opening holes for Kendrick, the line has done a good job of protecting Tekotte from blitzes.

Although the Kewpies’ line is relatively small, it consistently found ways to dominate during the regular season. Gaboury said the lack of size hasn’t hurt the team because smaller players, such as Jimmy Franklin, a 5-foot-11, 182-pound senior guard, are contributing.

“Jimmy Franklin is just a small guy,” Gaboury said. “But he works harder than anyone I’ve ever seen and does a great job. In practice and in games, we all work really hard.”

Against Blue Springs on Saturday, the line must play better than it did Sept. 19 to upset the Wildcats. The Wildcats defeated the Kewpies 43-27 and shut down the Kewpies’ ground game.

Hickman finished with 120 yards rushing, with 67 yards coming on a Tekotte touchdown run.

“This game we are going up against probably the best defense in the state,” Harper said. “To play against a defense like that every one of us is going to have to execute and do what we are supposed to do.”

Harper said the offensive line must work together to dominate.

“We have to do what we do every week,” Harper said. “Every one of us has to come out and play 100 percent and do our job.

“If one guy makes a mistake, everyone else can be perfect, but it messes up the play and one of our guys could be tackled for a loss in the backfield.”

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