Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Althoff's Undersized Offensive Line Leads the Way to Semifinals

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Althoff's Undersized Offensive Line Leads the Way to Semifinals

Article excerpt

BELLEVILLE * The world is so small for Jake Campbell. Door frames, ceiling fans and chandeliers are treacherous. Buying shoes at the store or clothes off the rack is a rare treat. The term "big and tall" was coined with Campbell in mind.

He is how we imagine offensive linemen should look. Campbell is 6- foot-7 and weights 340 pounds. His feet are size 17. His hands are too big for oven mitts. Campbell, 25, started three years for the Belleville East football team and earned four varsity letters playing at left and right tackle. He played four years at Arkansas State at both guard and tackle positions. When he's not teaching American history and psychology, he coaches the offensive line at Althoff.

The No. 1 small school in the STLhighschoolsports.com rankings, Althoff (12-0) hosts No. 8 Mater Dei (9-3) in a Class 4A semifinal at 1 p.m. Saturday. The winner plays for the state title at 7 p.m. Nov. 27 at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb.

The Crusaders are here in large part because of an offense that averages 48 points per game. Quarterback Jordan Augustine has thrown for 3,280 yards, 38 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Running backs Jaylon Bester and Malik Easley have combined for 2,207 yards and 30 touchdowns. Obviously a high-powered assault such as this is full of Campbell clones.

Right?

Not even close.

Althoff's starting offensive line averages out to 5-10 and 240 pounds. That's nine inches shorter and 100 pounds lighter than Campbell.

What do these guys have going for them if not overwhelming size?

"They're all smart," Campbell said.

Senior right guard Chris Leshikar (5-10, 212) carries a 4.0 grade point average and is tops in his class. None of the starting linemen are below a 3.5 and they average a 3.72.

Brains over brawn? That was the plan all along.

When Althoff coach Ken Turner looked over the roster in the offseason, he and his staff had some flexibility. For the first time in his 15 years, they had enough depth to play almost everyone exclusively one way. But to make it work, they had to shift some pieces around. Leshikar was a receiver and linebacker whose hamstrings routinely sidelined him.

"I have legs of glass," Leshikar said sheepishly. "It's true."

Turner saw an opportunity to keep Leshikar on the field and fill an important spot.

"I knew it'd be an easy change for him because he's a smart kid and he always liked to tackle," Turner said. …

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