Football’s scoring concept is simple enough. Get the ball in the other team’s end zone. Give the points to the guy who brings the ball into the end zone, and call his name out over the loudspeaker.
But the work that goes into creating those points? Not that simple, and the lion’s share of it comes from guys who never hear their names over the loudspeaker.
Each game is a series of battles, which start on every snap and end on each whistle. Whichever team wins those line-of-scrimmage battles usually has everything it needs to win the game.
“We say every game and every practice, it starts and ends with us,” said senior lineman A.J. Falk.
The battles are fought by men who hold the line, and players like Falk, Lance Lukkar and Marcus Ricketson have won enough battles to push the Clovis Wildcats to a 9-1 record and a No. 3 seed in this year’s Class 5A football playoffs.
Line coach Chuck Jordan, a former Wildcat lineman himself, calls Clovis linemen a “dying breed” because of the team’s adherence to the run, and a lot of what makes a lineman isn’t measured in height or weight.
“They’ve got to be willing to work hard,” Jordan said. “They’ve got to be strong, and if they’re not strong, they need to be working on getting stronger. They’ve got to have guts.”
And they’ve got to be willing to live without much credit.
If the line does its job, Jordan said, the “glory guys” like running backs and quarterbacks get the glory, and “their rewards are not getting yelled at by coach Roanhaus and me.”
No problem for Ricketson, a 5-10, 240-pound tackle.
“It really doesn’t matter, as long as we’re winning,” he said.
That’s the same approach Falk took. The former running back and linebacker got moved to guard this year, because that’s where coaches said he could help the most.
While he likes the position, he didn’t know the change would be so hard.
“It’s big,” Falk said of the learning curve. “You think all it is is holding them by the shoulder pads and letting the running back go by, but it’s about communication more than anything.”
Lukkar, a 6-foot, 255-pound center who loves the feeling of the Clovis running back going past him untouched, said that can’t happen without work before the play starts.
“Before the snap, we call out the defenses,” Lukkar said, and during the play they keep their ears open in case they need to pick up a blitzing defender or help one another with regular assignments.
Each lineman tries to find small, personal satisfactions out of his job — the 5-foot-8, 140-pound Falk said he loves the pancake block, with him on top of the defender, because “it makes you feel powerful” — because they probably won’t get much in the way of game balls or listings in the Wildcats’ statistics.
“It’s just a thank you and a high five,” Falk said.
For a lineman, those spoils of victory are enough.