The Frisco Lone Star football team is loaded with talent and is ranked No. 1 in Class 5A Division I for a reason.
The Rangers feature a star-studded roster comprised of future Division I college players like Oklahoma commit Marvin Mims and Utah pledge Jaylan Ford, as well as other standouts such as sophomore quarterback Garrett Rangel, senior running back Jake Bogdon and countless defensive studs, as well.
But to have an undefeated, 13-0 ball club competing in the regional finals for the third time in program history, it takes more than just an elite wide receiver or a lockdown defense.
One of, if not the most important, positional groups in high school football is up front with the big boys on the offensive line. Without a stout group paving the way for the ground game and to protect the quarterback, no offense will be able to thrive, regardless of the immense talent at other positions.
Often overlooked and underappreciated from outsiders looking in is the offensive line, and with a squad like Lone Star’s, that may be the case at times this season.
But the group up front for the Rangers has been the glue in molding together this state championship-caliber unit that is just two wins away from playing in the state title game for the first time since 2015.
“Those guys never get enough credit, but they don’t care about that,” said Jeff Rayburn, Lone Star head coach. “They are about team success and are about winning. When you have those unselfish guys leading the way, you have a chance for something special.”
A perfect example of the Lone Star offensive line flexing its muscle on a grand stage came last week in the Rangers’ thrilling overtime victory over Highland Park at AT&T Stadium.
Needing a score of any kind to win following a missed field goal by the Scots, Lone Star elected for the knockout blow instead when junior running back Jaden Nixon exploded through a massive hole created by the group up front and scampered 18 yards into the end zone virtually untouched.
BALLGAME!!!!!! lone Star wins!!!!! pic.twitter.com/MMwZaa9e3f— Bryan Murphy (@BryanMurphy_) November 30, 2019
Many will look back on that showdown and see that game-winning touchdown, Rangel’s 417 passing yards and three scores, Mims’ go-ahead touchdown catch in the fourth quarter while blanketed in double coverage or even Trace Bruckler’s whopping 14 catches.
As vital as all of those things were to taking down the three-time defending state champions, arguably the crew that deserves the most love is the starting offensive line – Mason Horton, Nathan Deason, Braden Grove, Kyle Lofye and Colten Tibbits.
“Nobody knows how easy it is to do our job when there are holes where you can pick and choose where you want to go,” Bogdon said. “It’s really a blessing to have such a great line. They are all so physical and they always fight each play even if they do get beat.”
On top of being bigger and more physical than most other defensive fronts they have faced this season, the chemistry within that unit is also second to none.
Most of the group makes sure to hang out every Thursday before a game and all 12 offensive linemen on the team also compete in a friendly fantasy football league, where Deason and Lofye are the two frontrunners for the title.
Those types of things have helped build a tremendous camaraderie amongst them, but it also goes well beyond that.
Earlier in the year, Rangel and his family hosted a pizza party at their house for just the offensive line in appreciation for all of the hard work they do in protecting the sophomore sensation. Then just last week, the Rangels did it again when they took the offensive line to eat at Babe’s Chicken Dinner House for another token of their gratitude for everything they have done throughout the season.
“We feel appreciated and that makes us want to block for him even more,” Deason said. “We know that we have someone in the backfield that cares about us, and seeing him step up and become the player that he is has been amazing. He’s a great quarterback and an even better person.”
Rangel and the rest of the offense will need all of the help they can get once again this week when the Rangers take on arguably the best defense they will have faced thus far in Lancaster with a berth in the state semifinals on the line.
Kickoff between Lone Star and the Tigers is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Wilkerson-Sanders Stadium in Rockwall.