By Michael Kinney
The Moore American
MOORE — High school football in Oklahoma has changed. Once known for its wishbone and power running attack, it’s now become an aerial assault where quarterbacks are flinging the football almost every play.
The days of a running back being a workhorse seem to be gone in Class 6A. That is, except at Westmoore, where senior Kieron Hardrick is expecting to tote the rock until his legs fall off.
“It’s just going to be me and AJ Oliver this year,” Hardrick said. “I am ready. It’s a pretty big change. It’s more of a load on me and I have to take more initiative to make myself a better player. It’s a lot of work this year.”
Hardrick ran for almost 1,000 yards last year as he split time with Austin Richards. This time he will be the lead back carrying the brunt of the Jaguars’ offense. The realization of just what he will have to put his body through this year began to dawn on him late in his junior campaign.
“Playing behind Austin Richards, it hit me late in the season last year,” Hardrick said. “This is going to be me next year. I have to work hard and keep it going. It just hit me that it’s going to be my time next year.”
Westmoore coach Billy Langford has seen Hardrick change over the offseason.
“He is a lot more focused and wanting to have a big year,” Langford said, “and knows he’s capable of having that year. He still has that big smile, but he comes a little more focused to practice than in the past. So that’s good.”
Hardrick has set his goals for more than 1,500 yards rushing and at least 20 touchdowns. He said if he reaches those numbers, it means his team is having success.
“Hardrick is a lot more patient than he was last year,” Langford said. “Last year I think he was just worried about getting the ball and just running. This year he understands where we want him to run and what speed at certain points in the play we want him to run. He has to be patient. Pick his holes and spots. Set those blocks up for these linemen. He finally understands that this year.”
Yet, Langford knows if the Jags want to make a run in the postseason, his team has to have a balanced attack. And that means throwing the ball more than it did last year.
Westmoore went into training camp with the starting quarterback position still undecided between Bryson Lee and Devon Navarro. But they did have the skill players around them to make plays.
“We always want to be equal,” Langford said. “Be 50-50 with the run pass as much as we can. Last year we weren’t throwing it as much as I wanted to. This year we feel like we got some more skill kids that are going to help the passing game. But we still want to run the ball and establish the line of scrimmage with the offensive line and running backs.”
It will the Jags’ front line who will be counted on to open holes for Hardrick. They return two starters from last year’s team.
“It’’s always very important for the offensive line,” tackle Noah Hammons said. “They are one of the main things of the game. If you don’t have a good offensive line, you usually have a bad team.”
While the line will also be responsible for keeping the Jaguars quarterback clean, that duty will also fall to Hardrick. Pass protection was something he didn’t relish in past season.
However, this year Langford said he needs him to approach blocking with the same tenacity as he runs with.
“I have worked hard on that this summer,” Hardrick said. “I feel I’ve gotten better in pass blocking. It’s gotten a lot better than since last year. I have to have a lot more aggressiveness pass blocking because you have big guys coming off the edge. I’m small so I have to be aggressive. I want to flatten a linebacker out this year.”
Michael Kinney Follow me @eyeamtruth email@example.com