The offense starts with front 5

Robert Smith

These are the five guys who have to knock bodies out of the way so the Pawhuska Huskies can make first downs and score touchdowns — Lesharo Wildcat (left tackle), Ryan Henley (left guard), Tristian McCartney (center), Hunter Reed (right guard) and Dylan Doyal (right tackle).

From the left side of the line to the right, they are numbers 71, 55, 60, 54 and 75. It’s like thanking the cook at a banquet — remember who opens the holes.

They’re the offensive line for a Huskies team that has sparked community interest by going 5-3 through the first eight games of the season. Wildcat is a freshman, Doyal is a sophomore, and the rest are juniors. Head Coach Matt Hennesy is excited by their progress, and by the expectation that all five will be back next season.

Hennesy, who was an All State center at Enid in high school, has pitched in to help coach the offensive line, and he likes the attitudes of his current group.

“What I like about these guys is their unselfishness,” he says. Hennesy tells the story of how Hunter Reed made the transition this year from running back to offensive lineman. The coach recalls that he needed a lineman and placed the choice in Reed’s hands. Hennesy asked Reed if he would play on the line, or if he would prefer for someone else to do it.

“No, I want to win. I’ll play offensive line,” Hennesy says, quoting Reed’s response. Reed is also the team’s leading tackler on defense with more than 100 stops already.

Doyal says the linemen have bonded during the season, forming special personal relationships, and Reed offered an opinion about how that has taken place.

“We work hard in practice, and I think that has a lot to do with becoming close,” Reed said. “We’ve shared sweat and tears. We’ve still got a long way to go.”

McCartney explains the offensive line has asserted itself, working to earn respect. He recalls the Barnsdall game, which Pawhuska won 36-18, as an example.

“They’d been talking some stuff, so we decided to shut them up,” he says of some of the Barnsdall guys. McCartney offers that the Pawhuska offensive line this year is “a whole lot more aggressive, I believe.”

Earlier in the season, the line was self-identifying as “the Trench Mafia,” but lately they’ve been the “Old Dirty Boys,” McCartney says. Down in the dirt, making holes for other people to run through. Linemen don’t hear their names called a lot on the public address system, but McCartney says that really doesn’t matter to him as long as the so-called skill players are making good plays.

“As long as they keep catching the ball and making first downs and scoring touchdowns, I’m all right with it,” McCartney said.

Hennesy says he thinks the Huskies have been scoring more lately because the line has been progressing.

“We’re protecting better, giving Bryce (Drummond) more time, and giving Easton (Kirk) creases to run in,” Hennesy said, adding that the five guys have played together all season as a group and have been developing their on-field communication skills. “They’re getting to where they talk better.”

Asked about the games from which they learned the most, and the opponents they most want to see again, the linemen offered slightly varying answers during an interview last week, but the Hominy game they won 44-38 was still on their minds.

“Every team, especially Hominy,” Doyal said, when asked which teams he’s looking forward to playing in 2019. “We had our challenges in the Hominy game.”

Reed mentioned Barnsdall and Hominy as the teams from which he thought the Pawhuska linemen learned the most.

We are talking about teenage boys, however, and in particular about young men who burn a lot of calories, so food has to have something to do with it all.

Hennesy laughs at the very idea of asking linemen about food, but there are angles where football and food meet. There are, of course, numerous team meals. But for the linemen there is the weekly cheeseburger reward. If an offensive lineman knocks an opponent down in a game, Coach Hennesy buys him a cheeseburger the next week.

“I’ve got to go today and get them all cheeseburgers,” Hennesy said last Wednesday. And that meant remembering how they like them. Plain, or no onions, for example.

The coach knows what he’s looking for down the road, though — “I expect them to be a dominant offensive line next year.”