Bobcats linemen to flex their muscles this year
The strength of the Basehor-Linwood football team was on full display during the very first play of last Thursday's intrasquad scrimmage. The first-team offensive line, led by left guard Austin Hunter and left tackle Ethan Douglas, opened up a hole that an asteroid would have been proud of, and junior running back David Theodoroff plowed off-tackle for nine yards.
That's a formula that third-year coach Steve Hopkins hopes repeats itself over and over again this season: the Bobcats' big offensive line creating SUV-sized gaps and the many BLHS running backs shooting through them. The left side of the line showed it was fully capable of that last Thursday, and Hopkins said he thinks the right side might be just as good.
"The strength of our team is our offensive and defensive line," Hopkins said. "What happened tonight was, we just called the ball to the left side more. I think our right side is extremely talented, too. Swede Johnson is over there and he's very good and Scott Ogilvie is probably our best blocking tight end and he's on the right side."
Ogilvie proved he can do more than just block on Thursday. After two successful runs to the left, quarterback Ben Zuk faked a handoff to that side on the third play. He then rolled right and dumped the ball off to Ogilvie, who turned on the speed and went forty yards down the sideline for a touchdown.
That play was just part of an outstanding start for the sophomore Zuk, who completed his first three passes and had his fourth go in and out of the hands of his intended receiver. After that he came back to earth a bit, as many of his late passes fell incomplete.
"His first eight snaps were probably the best he played tonight," Hopkins said. "That touchdown got him a little too excited, then he started to try to do too much."
Still, the first-team offense, with Zuk at the helm and Theodoroff, Chandler Schaake and Andrew Stueckemann running through big holes, looked effective, if not particularly explosive.
Defensively, the first team was dominant, giving Hopkins few opportunities to get a look at his linebackers or defensive backs. Kevin Marshall was flying to the ball from his linebacker spot but, by the time he got there, the defensive line had often already stuffed the play.
"We don't have a lot of depth, but we have a lot of players who can make plays," Marshall said. "Big players."
Douglas, Hunter and Johnson are all at least 270 pounds, while talented senior transfer Chad Whitlow weighs in at 231. They should be able to take on a lot of blockers, leaving Marshall free to make plays, which could lead to a huge year for the senior. He was an honorable mention all-league linebacker last year and said he hopes to increase his tackles and make the all-league first team this year.
Because of the line's dominance Marshall didn't get to make many solo tackles last Thursday, but he did get to show off his athleticism on offense. Late in the scrimmage he moved to running back and peeled off two long runs in which he shed arm tackles as if he was shooing away gnats.
"On defense I'd like to have more energy this year, but I'd like to run the ball a few times too," Marshall said afterwards.
Although Hopkins has a stable full of younger backs and would like to save Marshall mostly for defense, he said the senior will be a valuable piece of a running-back-by-committee approach.
"Kevin has to run, and what we want to do is use him as a change-of-pace back because he is a violent runner," Hopkins said. "We've got other kids who are the slasher type."
Besides Marshall and Whitlow, the only other seniors on the BLHS squad are defensive back Ben Adams and lineman Nick Davis.
That kind of youth isn't usually a formula for success, but Hopkins noted that many other Kaw Valley League teams are in the same boat. Because of that, Hopkins said he thinks the league is wide open.
The Bobcats lost a lot of players this year, including Will Peterson , who was arguably the best running back and team leader in the program's history. But Hopkins said he still thinks the squad can build on last season's 3-5 league record.
"We've got to be a lot better than last year," he said. "I'll be very disappointed if we're not one of the teams challenging for league and district titles. We're young, but we're not 'inexperienced young.' We've got a lot of guys who played a lot last year."