BATTLE GROUND — The running back gets the glory.
The linemen get anonymity.
Or so it seems.
To the outside observer, it is the running back gaining all those yards, scoring all those touchdowns. But within the framework of a team, the running back is the beneficiary of the blocking in front of him.
Kevin Haynes rushed for 316 yards and four touchdowns last week for the Battle Ground Tigers in a 41-27 win over R.A. Long to open the 2012 season.
The Tigers did so well with their blocking techniques, Haynes was able to pile up all those numbers.
There’s left tackle Dawson Snow, a senior, and sophomore left guard Garrett Dean. In the middle is senior center John Cormican. Junior guard Sheldon Michalios and senior tackle Bruce Yarwood handle the right side of the line. Senior Manny Martinez is the tight end. While those guys are taking care of the defensive linemen, fullback Blake Billingsley is clearing out anybody else.
“Without us, (there’s) not a whole lot he can do,” Yarwood said, referring to Haynes.
“The line did a helluva job,” Haynes said. “The linemen, the fullback, and even the quarterback. Ian Humphrey, he was really unselfish. If we really wanted to, we could have thrown for 300 yards.”
Did not need to, though. Haynes had 310 of his yards by halftime.
Yes, halftime. He only had one carry in the second half because the Tigers had such a big advantage before R.A. Long scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
For the linemen, the biggest play of the game came early. The Tigers did nothing with the ball on their first possession. R.A. Long went down the field and scored a touchdown. Just like that, after weeks of practice, months of training, the Tigers found themselves in a familiar situation.
But this year is different.
The first play after the ensuing kickoff, the Tigers ran a toss play to the left. Snow helped seal the edge, springing Haynes to a 75-yard touchdown run.
“It makes you feel you were a big help in making a touchdown,” Snow said.
The score was even more significant to Cormican.
“It was a good feeling knowing we were not the old Battle Ground and got down once we got down,” Cormican said. “We’re not going to give up.”
Haynes, the linemen and all of the Tigers bought into an offseason training regimen determined to change the attitude.
“Last year, we started playing in the second half. We didn’t go hard in the first half,” Yarwood said. “This year, our motor starts right away.”
It was running smoothly that first game.
“It was great to know as a group we are capable of allowing that to happen,” Martinez said.
Billingsley, the fullback, did not get a single carry in the game. Haynes said he was begging the coaches to get Billingsley at least one chance, but it was not to be on that first night.
It did not seem to bother Billingsley too much, if at all.
“I was just psyched we were up,” he said. “It’s nice to get a bone once in a while.”
Maybe in Week 2. The Tigers face rival Prairie at District Stadium.
Billingsley said he will focus in on the Falcons just like he did against the Lumberjacks. When he hears the running play in the huddle, when he knows the ball is going to Haynes, he turns his attention to his mission.
“I better pancake the guy in front of me,” Billingsley said. “I want my tailback to get as far down the field as possible. It’s a team sport. I have a job to do, and I want to do it to the best of my ability.”
If all the Tigers do everything just right, they all meet in the end zone anyway. At that moment, it does not matter who has the ball.
“I’m always telling them, ‘Great job.’ They can’t stop yelling for me,” Haynes said. “I give the linemen chest bumps, shoulder bumps. They’re always trying to give me chest bumps. They’re always pretty excited for me. It’s a good feeling.”
Judging from the statistics, it appears those chest bumps were the hardest Haynes got hit all night.
That’s only because the guys up front made it possible.
Still, this was not a perfect performance. No such thing in football. But effort can overcome miscues from time to time.
“Even if they didn’t block the right guys, they blocked somebody,” Battle Ground coach Larry Peck said. “The aggressiveness was there. They were on somebody.”
Stick with every play, maintain a positive attitude, and keep working. That’s the new Battle Ground way.
“If you let somebody off you, he’s going to make the tackle,” Yarwood said.
Not too many tackles were made in Week 1 against Haynes and the Tigers. They understand there might not be another 300-yard game for Haynes. They understand the competition will get stronger.
“It was great to come out and have a big night,” Haynes said. “We executed our game plan. We showed we’re back. Not that we’re satisfied. We have a lot to prove.”
They plan on doing that together, the guys with the football celebrating with the guys who make space for them.