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Abilene Reporter-News (Texas)


The Wylie Pirates and Rogers Eagles won the team titles Saturday at the inaugural State Lineman Challenge at Hardin-Simmons' Shelton Stadium.

The event, the brainchild of HSU football coach Jesse Burleson, provides summer competition for interior linemen in contrast to the 7-on-7 competition for skill-position players.

"The first one we ever did was 2001 when I was still coaching high school," Burleson said. "We've been doing it for a long time, but we just keep trying to get better at it, come up with new ways. As long as you're coaching, you're out there for the kids and trying to help them get better.

"Having them at Hardin-Simmons, you can't beat that. We really enjoyed it. It's a little bit different from other camps, but it's still a camp and they're still learning, being coached and evaluated."

The event drew 28 teams from around the state, each of which qualified through a series of preliminary events. Participants competed in nine events - bench press, dumbbell stack, farmers walk, truck push, obstacle course, power drive, sled pull, tire pull and tug of war.

Burleson said the events required a mix of strength, agility, quickness and endurance.

"There's a lot of strategy to it," he said. "I think a lot of people think you just get the linemen out here and there's a lot of groaning and grunting and pushing. But they've got to think and they've got to communicate. There's got to be some skill in a lot of those things and we just love watching them get to do it.

"They don't think it's going to be that bad. They think they're going to come out here and play around, then they end up gassed after about two events. That's a good thing because it tells them that even though they've been working out, they haven't been competing like they did today."

Wylie, located east of Dallas in Collin County, totaled 80 points to win the Division I title. The Pirates won five events - including tug of war, which awarded double points - to outdistance Arlington High by 30 points. The Colts won the bench press with Georgetown, which finished fourth in the team standings, winning the truck push.

Abilene High finished third with 37 points, winning the dumbbell stack and obstacle course, while Cooper was eighth with 14 points.

"It was fun coming out here, seeing how we match up with some of the top lines in the state," Abilene High defensive end Tom Berry said. "I felt like we did pretty good. There was some stuff we could have done better. We're not happy with third. I wish we could have won that championship.

"I think it helped a lot with footwork and staying low, driving through your blocks. It was just a fun day."

Abilene High offensive lineman Jesus Verastegui said the competition required some skills not normally targeted in football training.

"What we do in offseason really helps out on the bench press and pushing and all that," he said. "Some things we don't do are like the tractor run or whatever they called it. We just basically lift weights and run. I think our offseason really helped out on doing this event."

Cooper defensive end Paul Lowe said he enjoyed being part of the first state championship competition.

"It was pretty nice," he said. "We came out to compete and see our competitors for the upcoming season. It was just fun. You've got to love what you do."

Cooper linebacker Josh Hale said the Lineman Challenge offers interior players the same type of team-building experience skill-position players gain from 7-on-7 competition.

"I like how they put this into effect," he said. "It gives us something to work for and something to do during the summer. Most of the time, (defensive backs) are out working, playing 7-on-7, and we're just working out, doing the same thing every day. Doing this changes things, helps us out and gives us something to work for a little bit harder. That's always fun."

In Division II, Rogers scored 58 points to finish 22 points ahead of runner-up Hawley.

The Eagles picked up wins in the bench press, dumbbell stack and sled pull. Hawley won the farmers walk and obstacle course.

Other event winners were Graham in the tire pull, Lubbock Roosevelt in the truck push, Cuero in the power drive and Stockdale in tug of war.

Other Big Country teams competing were Cisco, which finished 10th, Coahoma, which was 13th, and Anson, which failed to score.

Burleson said he expects the event to grow in the future now that teams have a state championship to compete for.

"I can only see it getting bigger," he said. "I bet next year we have about 36 teams here. We just have to be creative with what we do. We definitely don't want to turn away any kids who compete and earn the right to be here."


At Shelton Stadium


DIVISION I - 1. Wylie 80; 2. Arlington High 50; 3. Abilene High 37; 4. Georgetown 35; 5. Saginaw Boswell 27; 6. San Antonio East Central 24; 7. San Angelo Lake View 21; 8. Abilene Cooper 14; 9. Georgetown Eastview 13; 10. San Antonio Jay 3.

DIVISION II - 1. Rogers 58; 2. Hawley 36; 3. Fort Worth All Saints 35; 4. Graham 31; 5. Stockdale 25; 6. Lubbock Roosevelt 22; 7. Levelland 21; 8. Cuero 18; 9. Gatesville 15; 10. Cisco 14; 11. Cayuga 13; 12. Dallas Madison 12; 13. Coahoma 4.



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