JOHNSTON CITY — There is no secret to Johnston City's success on the gridiron this fall - a solid if not spectacular running game to go along with beefy, strong and talented linemen leading the way.
Altogether, the Indians' Isiah Watson, Boston Peyton, Nolan Causey and Connor Mowery have rushed for 4,000 yards this fall, an average of 333 yards per game. Two of the linemen opening up massive holes for the backs are seniors Logan Hunter and Brock Baker.
Hunter is a three-year starter at offensive tackle listed at 6-foot-3, 285.
"Logan is very athletic for his size," said Johnston City coach Todd Thomas. "He is good at pass protection, good at opening up holes for the backs, and an excellent long snapper. It helps that he has really quick feet to go along with his size and strength."
Thomas said Hunter, who has committed to play football next fall for Lindenwood University, now a Division I school, plays both sides of the ball, starting at defensive tackle when not blocking for his teammates.
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"He was originally recruited to play defense, but I think the plan might be now to play him on the offensive side of the ball," Thomas said.
Hunter was First Team All-Conference and All-South last year as a junior. He was Second Team All-Conference as a sophomore. He is destined for First Team All-Conference status at the conclusion of this season, as well as All-South.
"Logan has worked hard in the weight room to get stronger and it's made a difference in his game," Thomas said. "Without a doubt, he is one of the best linemen I have ever coached. He's pretty much the leader of our offensive line and a big part of three straight conference championships. He has developed by leaps and bounds since his sophomore year. He has been a dominant player for us here at Johnston City."
Thomas added that he wouldn't be surprised to see Hunter become an even better college player than he is a high school player.
"I can see him adding some weight and muscle and starting on either side of the line at the next level."
Hunter said he has a hard time putting into words what this season has meant to him.
"It's been a lot of fun for sure," he said. "Kind of unexpected. Kind of mind-boggling. I can't really process it. We have had an amazing season. Everybody has bought in to the program. We are all so focused right now as a group."
Hunter said he can't imagine a more perfect senior season of football.
"We get along very well and we care about each other," he said. "None of us wants this feeling to end Saturday."
Hunter said he has worked hard in the weight room to improve his core strength and believes that has made a huge difference in his performance this season. He is hopeful to become an even better player at Lindenwood next year.
"I plan on playing on the offensive line there. It's pretty exciting. I can't wait to get started."
Baker, listed at 6-foot-1, 225 pounds, plays tight end for the offense and 90% of his snaps focus on blocking schemes, although he does have a couple of touchdown catches.
"Brock is a football kid 100% and has also been a three-year starter for us," Thomas said. "He has actually had more of an impact for us defensively from the end slot. He kind of came out of nowhere his sophomore year because he had played linebacker as a freshman, But he just kept getting better and better once we moved him to defensive end. And he embraced the switch in positions. Of course, it didn't hurt that he matured physically quite a bit."
Thomas said Baker missed a couple of games his junior year with a knee injury. He returned in time for the playoffs, even though he was far from full speed.
"He had a little bit of a knee issue this season, too, but was able to play through it," Thomas said of Baker. "Like Logan, I can definitely see him playing college ball for someone. He's starting to draw some interest from schools. I like his passion for the game. It shows every time he's on the field."
Baker said he describes his teammates on the football team as his family.
"There were people that have doubted us, but we continue to believe in ourselves," he said. "We have had a great year and we want more."
The senior said he enjoys tight end, but defense is clearly his strong suit.
"I give a lot of credit to one of my former teammates - Zander Saylor, who played on the line for us. He showed me so much about playing the defensive end position. I can't thank him enough for showing me the ropes."
Baker said on of the keys to JC's football success is unselfishness.
"We don't care about the personal awards. We just want the team to win. I could care less if I make one tackle or 100 tackles, as long as we win."
When told that this year's JC team is the best in school history in terms of total wins and advancement in the state playoffs, Baker said that will mean more to him someday, just not now.
"That's great. Going by the numbers, I guess that's true, but this team is not thinking too much about that stuff. We're focused on Decatur St. Teresa. We have to find a way to beat them and advance to the championship game. We know that's going to be hard to do, but we believe in ourselves."
Baker said he, too, would like to extend his playing career by compete at the collegiate level next year.
"I'm not done with football. I want to keep playing," he said.