It all starts with the line.
That phrase is a popular one with football coaches everywhere. And if the recent State LineMAN Challenge is an indication, the Hurst L.D. Bell football program is off to a good start for the fall season.
The Raiders sent two teams to the competition, with one finishing fourth. It is the first time for Bell to compete in the event, in its third season.
“This is important for us in several ways,” Bell coach Mike Glaze said. “It gives us confidence — to know that you’ve gone out and competed against other guys at your level and had success is big.
“It’s important to know we can compete up front, especially when it comes to running and stopping the run.”
Bell’s top individual event was the tug-of-war, which the Blue Raiders won. It was also the final event of the day, and Glaze said it featured much cheering and spectator participation.
“There was whooping and hollering. It was great,” he said. “And we finished strong, which is important to me.”
Bell took 18 athletes to the competition. Up to five could compete in a single event.
The Raiders finished third in the bench-press competition, third in power drive relay and fourth in the tire throw.
Arlington High won the overall title in 5A-6A with 84 points, followed by Odessa with 48 points, Abilene with 39 and Bell with 37.
Bell was the only team from District 5-6A to compete at state. The Raiders qualified by finishing in the top three at their own lineman challenge this summer.
“The camaraderie was also important. They’ve been working together out in the heat, and to see it pay off as a team means a lot,” Glaze said.
“It was more like an offseason workout,” offensive line coach Chris Eldridge said of the state competition. “It was a lot of the things we’d been doing already in our workouts.”
Eldridge said even in the one event in which the Raiders did not do so well, the wheelbarrow relay, there was a lesson learned. The wheelbarrow tipped over during the relay.
“It teaches our kids that we can’t make even little mistakes,” he said. “If that doesn’t happen, we probably finish a little higher.
“But I’m so proud of these kids and they way they competed. The biggest thing I take out of this is we’re not the same L.D. Bell. These guys out front, that’s where games are won and lost, and this just shows we’re moving forward and making great progress.”
Glaze said the success also feeds into the team’s “Plus 2” philosophy.
“Whatever it is, go two steps further,” Glaze said. “Whether it’s working out, a game, homework, something your parents ask you to do, don’t just do it, go that extra bit.
“We lost two games in overtime last season, including the first of the season.”