Offensive line is an unglamorous position in high school football.
While the skill players rack up touchdowns and see their names in the paper, it’s the linemen that spend all Friday night smashing their helmets on helmets, crushing their fingers into shoulder pads, and having their legs rolled up on at weird angles making those points possible.
However, in Independence at Simon Kenton High School where the Pioneers are a perfect 3-0, everybody understands how important the big men up front have been to the team’s success.
“Their play has been huge,” head coach Jeff Marksberry said. “They set the tone for everything. When we get confidence running the football and those offensive linemen are able to open holes like that, the whole team feels good about our ability to make plays, get first downs, move the chains and get the ball in the endzone.”
Any Kentucky high school football fan who has been scoreboard watching over the first three weeks of the season has undoubtedly taken notice of Simon Kenton’s offense. The Pioneers have put up 50-plus points in all three games, while averaging over 530 yards per game.
Their rushing attack, led by Dillon Powell’s seven touchdowns and 214 yards per game, has been absurdly productive. In week one, they rolled up 502 yards and six touchdowns on the ground against Bryan Station, the most dominant performance Marksberry can recall in his 16-year tenure.
“That’s the best one,” Marksberry said. “We had two players, Brent Bishop and Josh Larkins, who both ran for over 200 yards against Lloyd back in 2005, but to rush for 500 yards against a team who’s athletic and has the size of Bryan Station was a pretty impressive performance.”
Three-year starter David Sandlin sets the tone not only for the lineman but for the entire offense. The 6-foot, 280-pound left guard bench presses 360 pounds, power cleans 325, and squats over 500. Coming into the year with only one returning starter from last year’s team worried Marksberry and his staff initially, but Sandlin eased those concerns by bringing the group together in the weight room during the offseason.
“We were worried because we had three sophomores and three seniors,” Marksberry said. “We were really worried about their physicality and just their strength being sophomores, but that’s a testament to Dave Sandlin. He’s been on successful teams, and he knew that he had to get those young guys under his wings to make sure that things went well. He is their leader. He’s the leader of our team.”
Sandlin is surrounded by five other regular contributors. Senior Josh Morrison (6-3, 225 lbs) is a converted tight end that starts at left tackle, sophomore Sam Holt (6-1, 257 lbs) won the starting center position, senior Blake Clark (6-3, 273 lbs) and sophomore Noah Turner (6-1, 274 lbs) have platooned at right guard, and sophomore Colton Williams (6-5, 265 lbs) starts at right tackle. According to Sandlin, the reason they were able to gel so quickly is because they genuinely care about each other off the field.
“We just like each other,” he said. “We all hang out together. Tomorrow we’re all going to our quarterback’s house to hang out. We’re just really good friends.”
Marksberry said those guys have risen up to the challenges set forth by the coaching staff, both physically and mentally. They understand schemes, they play a physical brand of football, and they have enough athleticism to execute.
“They’ve really bought into the physicality that we’ve asked from them,” Marksberry said. “And they’re all good enough athletes – Josh Morrison and Colton Williams are both basketball players – that they can do some of the demanding things we’re asking them to do with pulls and getting to the second level of the defense.”
As for the glamour, Simon Kenton’s linemen aren’t worried about that. They’re having the time of their lives watching their teammates pile up the rushing yards.
“It’s awesome because a lot of people that know football know that rushing yards come from the offensive lineman,” Morrison said. “We still get praise from our friends and people that know us, and even Dillon (Powell) always makes sure to tell us thanks which is awesome.”