Five new starting offensive linemen grew from question mark to strength to help Bearcats to repeat state title
By Tony Eierdam
The Community News
Going into spring football in 2019, Aledo offensive line coaches Lee Bishop and Doug Wheeler knew they were in the kind of predicament O-line coaches fear when they graduate five starting linemen as the Bearcats had done after the 2018 state championship season.
The 2019 starting offensive line would consist of five fresh faces, but despite the fact that only tackle Aidan Hayes had started a few games in ’18 because of injuries, this line was greener than the field turf that adorns Bearcat Stadium.
With a center named Goodenough — as in Ryan Goodenough — this line proved more than just “good enough” as it paved the way — like its predecessor — for the offense to click and click well enough to win another state championship.
Joining Goodenough and Hayes to formulate this state-championship line were Logan Michael, Carter Miller, and Gunnar Allen.
Bishop felt he had a special group going into the season.
“I always felt they were going to be a good group,” he said. “But because I knew what kind of kids they were that they were going to be a good group. I knew they were all-in, and in most years our kids are. But these kids did everything we asked them to do over and beyond, and I knew they were intelligent. It is easy to coach smart kids.
“Maybe they weren’t as big or strong as some of the groups we have had in the past, but they grew up here so they had high expectations. They live in our ‘expectation world’ and they walked in here thinking they were going to win a state championship just like any other group Doug and I have had. They felt it was their time.
“You always wonder when you throw young ones in there because they haven’t been in the system as long. We didn’t know how Carter Miller or Gunnar Allen would respond, but we knew Aidan was going to be a good football player.”
Co-offensive line coach Doug Wheeler said he realized in the spring after watching the group work that they had the five guys who could take over from last year’s successful offensive line.
“Coming into this season we had several guys who had played last year but didn’t start, although Aidan Hayes did start about four games the year before,” Wheeler said. “He really played well. Logan Michael was another guy who played a lot last year, so we did come into this year with some guys with a little playing experience.
“This year we had two sophomores (Carter Miller, Gunnar Allen) and they each had a great spring, and combine that with our seniors (Michael, Hayes, Goodenough) who also worked hard and by the end of the spring we knew we had our offensive line.
“These guys knew the system because they had been running the same stuff since middle school. We (Wheeler and Lee Bishop) try to spend time with the sub-varsity offensive linemen and we go to their games and work with the kids. These are intelligent kids who are easy to coach, and they are kids who can take coaching.”
Bearcats head coach Tim Buchanan said he had quit worrying about the offensive line long ago, trusting his two well-regarded assistants.
“I would say that this year Lee Bishop and Doug Wheeler have done one of their better jobs because they had so much inexperience on the offensive line,” Buchanan said. “I would say it was their (Bishop, Wheeler) best year, but honestly, since 2009 when they got here…the more I got to know them and the more I watched them work I never worried about our offensive line.
“Now, they worry about it, but because we have those two guys coaching the offensive line I never worry about it. It would be hard to find two offensive line coaches that work so well together. It is Mutt and Jeff. They get along so well, and if anyone asks who is in charge, well, they both are in charge, and they complement each other so well.
“These coaches have such high expectations of themselves and place high expectations with their kids, and in turn the kids have high expectations of themselves. This program has a ton of good coaches, but no one holds their kids more accountable than what our O-line coaches do. These kids got their jobs done.”