High School Football

To Henry Clay, it's all block and roll

Henry Clay's football team is best known for its bevy of speedy playmakers who can turn any snap into six points.

"We've got a lot of flash and dash," Blue Devils Coach Sam Simpson said. "But if we didn't have those guys up front, we wouldn't be flashin' and dashin' near as much."

Those guys up front, the offensive linemen, toil in relative anonymity while Henry Clay's skill-position stars grab the glory and the headlines.

But the O-line doesn't feel unappreciated.

"Not at all," senior center Doug Dauer said. "They take care of us around here. They give us credit and pats on the back when we deserve it."

Elijah Barnett, a senior tackle, said the offensive line thinks of itself "as a team within the team. The front five, we've all got each other's backs, and we congratulate each other when we do a good job."

Dauer, Barnett and fellow senior Andrew Wolter, along with junior Justin Rivers and sophomore Dan Tadic, call themselves the "Meat Pack."

Simpson singled out Dauer, Barnett and Wolter for doing more than just blocking.

"Those are three very unselfish kids that we've relied on a lot for their leadership, in the weight room in the off-season, and on the field during the season.

"They make everybody else look good with their hard work."

Henry Clay looks great when its offense is clicking. Quarterback Jerry Williams, receivers Carwell Gardner, Blake Green, Vinny Miller and Branden Johnson, and running backs Bo Brooks, Shannon Coofer and Tyrelle Johnson give the Devils a surplus of game breakers.

"It's nice that we can put the ball in pretty much anybody's hands and they've got potential to make big plays," Barnett said. "They can all make things happen."

Because of their terrific speed, the Devils have made a habit of ripping off long touchdowns this season.

Dauer said that while those quick-strike TDs "get us super excited, we really love pounding the ball down the field when we get the chance."

Barnett has the same preference for hand-to-hand combat in the trenches, a preference no doubt instilled in the "Meat Pack" by Devils offensive line coach Marty Joyce.

"We love run-blocking the best," Barnett said. "It's probably the funnest thing to do, pushing people around, just that contact."

Barnett has special appreciation for football this fall after missing most of his junior year with a torn meniscus.

That was a major setback for Barnett, who before his sophomore season was named the top underclassman lineman at a national combine in Columbus, Ohio.

"Over the last couple of weeks, he's started to play like the old Elijah," Simpson said.

Henry Clay's offensive line will have to be at its best when the No. 13 Devils (9-2) visit No. 18 Bryan Station (9-2) in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs Friday night.

What did Henry Clay learn from its 27-6 regular-season victory over the Defenders?

"It let us know we can beat them, but at the same time we found out Bryan Station is a hard-working team that never gives up," Barnett said.

That sounds like the "Meat Pack's" own motto.