By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
They’re not names you’d recognize from a box score or even attending a game Friday at Pioneer Stadium. But make no mistake, Stillwater High School quarterback Jon Littell knows who the most important players are on the field and it isn’t his receivers, running backs or even himself.
It’s the offensive line.
“Those guys do a great job,” Littell said after the heartbreaking 44-41 loss at Sand Springs last week. “They’re out their busting their butts each play. Without them, we wouldn’t have had a shot to win.”
It’s often said that an offense is only as good as its offensive line. And for the first seven weeks of the season, things looked to be a bit dismal with key injuries and a rash of new players getting adjusted to varsity football.
Now it seems like the group has finally found its groove, thanks in large part to the leadership of senior Kelby Wickline and junior D.J. Peckham, two of the more experienced players in the bunch.
“Young or old, we’re going to find the five guys that are going to do what they’re supposed to and work hard,” Stillwater offensive line coach Chad Cawood said. “Yeah, you’d love to have five seniors up there. But we’re very fortunate to have Kelby Wickline, a very good senior, and D.J. Peckham, a very experienced junior. Those guys have played a ton of football around here. They’re warriors and we appreciate everything they’re doing.”
And what exactly are they doing that’s led to Stillwater’s recent offensive outbursts? Just doing their jobs.
“I have friends telling me I look stupid out there jumping around and hopping around (with the rest of the offensive players),” Peckham said. “If you understand the feeling of what it feels like to know that you helped put up the points, then you’d get it.”
Sure they may not get all the notoriety of someone like Littell or King Williams. Nor do they make as much noise as any number of Stillwater’s receivers, but one thing they are is effective.
“They’re just going to get their job done,” Cawood said. “They’re not vocal. They’re quiet guys, but you can count on them working hard and you can count on them to get their job done and for eight straight weeks they have gotten their job done.”
There are times Cawood would like them to be more vocal. After all, communication is the key to an offensive line.
But for the five in the trenches, sometimes that non-verbal communication is hard to see.
“That’s what helps us is we’re close,” Peckham said. “I know what (Wickline) is expecting to do and he knows what I’m going to do, for example.
“It’s important because we do communicate on the line, keep each other going, help each other out with what jobs we need to do. We’re just close. We know what each other is going through. We know how hard it is for one person to be doing this and how hard it is for another to be doing that and we just help each other as much as we can.”
In a season where it has been a struggle, that’s been the motivating factor for Stillwater this season.
No doubt, they’d like to win a couple more games for the two seniors, Wickline and Sterling Watkins. But while they have taken those lumps, Cawood and company are confident Stillwater will be better for it down the road.
“Those guys are gaining valuable experience, experience that will help them going into this offseason and going into next year,” Cawood said. “They’re not going to walk out there next year for the first time and wonder what varsity football is all about. They’ve been out there on Friday night. They’ve seen the battles. Sometimes they’ve taken some lumps this year that they didn’t want, but they go out and compete game-in and game-out.”