Offensive linemen are like the Rodney Dangerfield of football. They get no respect.
To some, they may as well be “The Invisibles” — but not to their teammates.
Such is their existence — plenty of guts, but rarely any glory.
For years, the offensive line for the Stephenville High School football team has been known as “The Wall.” The linemen who are part of that small but essential group even have “The Wall” T-shirts that they wear.
In winning the first two games this season, over Cleburne and Springtown, the Yellow Jackets have averaged almost 480 yards of total offense per game. The ball carriers who have chalked up that yardage almost always give credit to the offensive line, first and foremost.
“They have to be a real close-knit group, and they are,” head coach Greg Winder said of the offensive line. “They’ve gotten better every week.”
Assistant coaches Eric Rivas and John Harrell are into their third season coaching the offensive line, although Rivas has been in that role on the SHS staff even longer.
“They are starting to gel together. That’s the biggest thing,” Harrell said of the offensive linemen. “We’ve had a lot of success the last couple of weeks, not blowing assignments — and we’ve faced three different (defensive) fronts.”
Linemen don’t make headlines by scoring touchdowns, but they are essential to most scoring plays. They learn to be satisfied with internal appreciation, according to Harrell, a former Yellow Jacket lineman who graduated from SHS in 2003.
“At that position, you’re not going to get a lot of recognition, besides in our film room,” Harrell said. “The offensive line, to me, is just one of the toughest positions. I tell our (linemen) that if we play well, we will win. We have to control the line of scrimmage.”
The Jackets have both the skills and the size to do that.
“We’re the biggest we’ve been since I’ve been here — and we’re very athletic,” Harrell said. “The offensive linemen have to be athletes that can move.”
Perhaps most remarkably, the offensive line has only one returning starter from the 2016 season. That’s 250-pound senior left tackle Ty’Von Anderson-Robison, who was expected to be back in action this week after being sidelined with an injury. Sophomore Caleb Smith, who weighs in at 190, has been starting in his place while he was out.
Junior Jacob Poston, a 270-pound center, saw some action on the varsity last season, as did 230-pound right tackle Devon Roeming, also a junior. Junior Scott Gill, a 250-pound left guard, also is a returning letterman. Lane York, a 6-5, 242-pound junior at right guard, was on the junior varsity last year as a sophomore. Senior tight end Kade Averhoff also has blocking duties as part of “The Wall,” in addition to being a receiver.
“You can tell they are excited and they like to be here and be around each other,” Harrell said of the linemen. “And we have fun coaching those kids. Those guys take great pride in being part of that group. Being part of the offensive line, you’re part of a fraternity.”
Harrell said that the linemen have gotten in better shape than they were last season, to the point that they can remain closer to their “maximum level” deeper into games.
“We are able to sustain longer drives, and finish ballgames,” Harrell said, noting that they avoid seeing proper technique “fly out the window” by avoiding early fatigue.