Leoti-Wichita County’s offensive line features three seniors with Blake Hernandez, Jesse Hermosillo and Oscar Jiminez. As well, Jesse’s brother, AC, a sophomore, plays up front.
The quartet all weigh between 215 and 275. They are close-knit and each one is a returning starter.
On Friday, the Indians’ line play helped Leoti score 50 second quarter points and defeat WaKeeney-Trego, 58-12, in a key road district contest.
“They are just a really tight group, and they actually develop their own kind of language on how to know when to double, how to know when to pull,” first-year coach Brant Douglas said.
The game ended at halftime because of the 45-point rule. The surprising Indians, which played second-ranked Hoxie close on the road last week, moved to 4-1, 1-1 in Eight-Man, Division I, District 8.
“We have been around each other for a long time from little pee wee football till now,” Jesse Hermosillo said. “We are seniors now, so we just kind of know where we’ve got to be, and we practice the language and everything.”
The win sets up a huge matchup next week when St. Francis (5-0, 2-0 district) travels to Wichita County. St. Francis defeated Hoxie, 64-30, on Friday. The loss ended Hoxie’s 12-game winning streak.
“He has made the biggest impact in our town,” Hermosillo said of coach Douglas, in his first year coaching in Kansas. “In the community, all the stands are full, and he makes us practice to perfection, and then the games are just run-throughs from what practices are.”
WaKeeney dropped to 3-2, 1-1 on a cold, wet night. Leoti led 8-6 at the end of the first quarter before multiple long runs and short fields propelled the Indians to the offensive explosion.
“We just came out with an intensity to put these guys away,” Hermosillo said. “Make a statement in our district that we are not a surprising team. … We gave Hoxie a run for their money last week, and we are looking for St. Francis to show what we got.”
The Indians used a spread look often in the first month, but incorporated the power run more frequently than any previous contest. The Indians had a distinct size and depth advantage versus a Golden Eagle squad that had no seniors at least 200 pounds.
“We came in with a plan to run the ball, pound the ball up the middle, and we really started committing to that,” Douglas said. “Our size difference started to show, and there was a definite energy change in the second quarter, and that really benefited us, and it’s cold out, we wanted to go home. That helped, too.”
After an exchange of punts, Leoti sophomore quarterback Kayde Rietzke scored on a 10-yard run. Later in the quarter, he fumbled on the Trego 1-yard line and WaKeeney recovered in the end zone for a touchback.
Then, the Golden Eagles countered on a 44-yard touchdown run from senior Dallas Schneider. He finished with 91 rushing yards and a 63-yard kickoff return.
Rietzke, with great shiftiness and elusiveness, eventually recorded 14 carries for 106 yards and three touchdowns. He completed 5 of 7 passes for 77 yards and a score. On one play, he continued to dart in and out of tacklers.
“Ever since I got him, he’s just a little bit quicker than everybody else on the field, and you can see that, like I think he made 14 people miss on an eight-man field right here,” Douglas said with a smile.
Rietzke exited the game in the second quarter with a stinger, but Douglas said the signal caller is expected to play next week.
Early in the second quarter, Rietzke found senior Ronald Michel for 25-yard touchdown pass. Then, he delivered a 20-yard scoring run on a huge hole up the middle.
“I am the strongest out of us,” Hermosillo said. “And AC would definitely be the second, and Blake and Oscar are right about the same. Oscar can block really well when he wants to. Blake, just a monster, he blocks to the whistle – even sometimes after the whistle. We have to calm him down a couple times, and AC just an overall athlete who knows he can do his job, and he does his job to perfection.”
On the next possession, Jesse Hermosillo tackled Schneider for loss, and then forced and recovered the fumble. Sophomore Jesse Gardner eventually added a 16-yard run to bump the lead to 32-6.
“He ran right through my hole,” the 5-10, 275-pound Hermosillo said. “I saw the ball was loose, so I just decided to strip it out, just like we do in practice. Coach Douglas really emphasizes the turnovers, so just get another turnover. Our goal is to get three turnovers a game.”
Rietzke and Gardner consistently had sizable room to run.
“They run with all they got, so we block with all we’ve got,” Hermosillo said.
Gardner, who also gained significant yards on an inside run where he would get to the corner, finished with 17 carries for 186 yards and three scores.
“They make big holes for me,” Gardner said. “Yeah, they do really good blocking and on the pulls. Our line opened up the holes, and we just got clicking, and started taking off.”
After WaKeeney returned a pooch kickoff 52 yards for a touchdown, Leoti quickly scored again. Freshman Tristan Porter took the kickoff back to the WaKeeney 35-yard line.
Gardner had a 32-yard run, and then Rietzke scored from three yards, again on a big lane up the center. Gardner added scoring runs of 31 and 12 yards sandwiched around a 14-yard TD run from sophomore Teagan Bishop.
“They are just really football smart, and they actually love protecting the quarterback and their running backs,” Douglas said of his line. “They like blocking for them. Kayde gets a lot of glory, he’s got good stats, but they see that on a reflection on themselves, too, so it’s a team effort, they see it as a whole team getting recognized, and Kayde does a good job of recognizing them, too.”