By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
LAMAR, Mo. —
Offensive linemen don’t receive a lot of interview requests.
So it was to be expected that Lamar Tigers linemen Austin Boice, Ben Bailey, Justin Frieden, Keenan Begley, Jack Gilkey and Jimmy Keutzer and tight ends Sam Bailey and Trenton Mooney were a little quiet at first.
However, soon they were all shouting out their answers at once, hoping their quote would be placed in print.
It’s understandable though. When you’re as anonymous as linemen typically are, any time in the spotlight is likely to be relished.
For the Lamar offensive line, the spotlight is well deserved. The unit is a big part of the Tigers’ success and why they are making a run at their second consecutive Class 2 state championship.
Lamar (10-2) will be on the road to face Liberty (Mountain View-Birch Tree) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the Class 2 quarterfinals.
The offensive front has helped the Tigers to three consecutive lopsided playoff wins against Stockton, Ash Grove and Butler. The unit has paved the way for running back Jared Beshore and quarterback Levi Petersen to each rush for about 1,500 yards in Lamar’s two-quarterback misdirection offense.
“The first thing about the offensive line a lot of people don’t realize is how smart they are,” Lamar coach Scott Bailey said. “They’re all pretty much high IQ, high GPA, high ACT guys.
“The next thing is that they’re very strong. Two of those guys are in the 1,000-pound club. Two more are pushing the 1,000-pound club. They’re all good power cleaners, all good explosive lift guys.”
The Tigers have a good mix of height and bulk up front. All of the linemen except Gilkey are listed as 6-foot or taller and all weigh more than 200 except for Frieden.
“If you asked what’s their best attribute, it’s funny to say about offensive linemen but it might be their athleticism,” Coach Bailey said. “You look at how tall and rangy they are, but then you see how explosive they are with some of their weightroom numbers. Their athleticism may be something a lot of people don’t realize.”
Lamar graduated three linemen from last year’s state championship team but returned a strong base with Boice and Ben Bailey. Boice earned first-team all-state honors while Ben Bailey was on the second team.
Boice, a senior at 6-foot-7 and 290 pounds, also is receiving a lot of attention from Division I schools. According to Scout.com, he is receiving interest from the likes of Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri and has received offers from Tulsa and Wyoming.
“He fits the profile of a college offensive lineman,” Coach Bailey said. “The recruiters measure them in so many ways, and Austin fits that profile. Next, he’s a 34 ACT kid. So you sit here and think about the complicated offense, the complicated blocking scheme ... There’s nothing complicated in football for Austin. He’s very good about figuring things out and figuring them out in a hurry.
“I see the sky as the the limit with him. I don’t think if a university gave him an opportunity, there’s any way they’d be disappointed with him.”
The first-year starters said they learned a lot from watching last year’s seniors perform at a high level.
“Even watching on the sidelines helped last year,” Frieden said. “You watch that position and pick up on little keys. And they were real good about coming over and giving you tips on what to do. They were real big on helping the next person in line out.”
Communication is key since the Tigers often see a variety of defensive fronts from week to week.
“Since we’re a heavy run team, sometimes teams have to resort to blitzing their linebackers and bringing all they got,” Boice said. “So we have to be in constant communication about who’s got who. You got to keep your heads up and see who is coming.”
During Monday’s 62-0 win over Butler on Monday night, the Tigers ran for 275 yards in the first half, and Beshore was barely touched as he rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns on three carries.
Of course, it was the skill players who received the attention and the accolades.
But that’s just fine with these linemen. They’ll take their brief moment in the spotlight, then return to a football team’s version of an assembly line.
“We love running the ball,” Sam Bailey said. “We love making making the holes for everyone to run through. We love it when we have 400 yards rushing and things like that. It makes it even more rewarding.”