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Olympic football offensive line takes pride in Larry Dixon's success
This family lives for Fridays, when their spikes sparkle under the stadium lights.
When their knuckles sink into the spongy field pre-snap and moving the sticks is all that matters.
This family — all seniors, all friends — lives for the nights when their job is to crunch people, paving the way for running machine Larry Dixon.
Meet the Olympic football offensive line.
“He can’t do it all by himself,” said Dillon Matautia, one of seven senior offensive linemen who is taking pride in Dixon’s pursuit of the West Sound all-time career rushing record. “He’s not a one-man army.”
The 5-foot-10, 215-pound Dixon is 452 yards away from breaking a record set by South Kitsap’s Ryan Cole, who rushed for 4,654 over the course of his career.
Barring injury, it appears inevitable Dixon will eclipse Cole. The senior is averaging 258 rushing yards per game this season (9.7 per carry), meaning it’s not unreasonable to think he will break the record Oct. 2 at Timberline.
Dixon has been dominant in each of Olympic’s first three games, scoring 16 touchdowns (14 on the ground) and piling up 744 rushing yards. Dixon scored five touchdowns in the Trojans’ most recent game, a 38-34 loss to North Thurston in which he rushed for three scores, returned a kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown and caught a 30-yard pass in the game’s waning moments for another.
“He’s just an animal, he just doesn’t slow down. He’ll hit you and run over you,” said interim coach Tim Allbee. “If the guy lifts his legs and you don’t tackle him right, he’s gonna hit you in the head and you’re gonna start seeing stars.”
Ask Dixon, however, and he immediately credits the offensive line — the family.
It’s been a rugged start to the season — and it won’t get easier — for the Trojan line, which has consistently seen defenses stack eight, nine and even 10 players in the box to slow down Dixon.
At times, the linemen admit, the tactic has worked because it’s simply impossible to get a body on every defender. And at other times, it’s difficult not to relax knowing the best running back the school has ever produced is waiting in the backfield and capable of making a play on his own.
“It’s good because if we miss our assignment, we know he’s going to make up for it sometimes,” said lineman Ardie Fesuluai. “On the downside, sometimes we take plays off and expect him to break one. We put too much on his shoulders.”
But for every play the linemen may “take off,” Dixon believes they step up many more, particularly late in the game when his legs are tiring and he needs an extra inch or two to break through the line.
Allbee shuffles the linemen on and off the field throughout the game to keep them fresh.
“These guys have done a fantastic job of stepping up,” Dixon said. “They know in the fourth quarter that everybody is tired, so they step up and make the holes a little bit bigger for me so I have a little more time to get through. And I appreciate that.”
The rhythm between runner and blocker is never perfect, but the Trojans line says it has an advantage: The majority of them played with Dixon in junior high and understand his running style.
That experience, coupled with the unit’s desire to get Dixon the record, is plenty to fuel this O-line family.
“It goes back to junior high. I know Larry’s cutbacks (in) the back of my head,” Fesuluai said. “If I take him this way, Larry’s going to cut that way ... So we already know where each person is going to go.”
The Trojans have found success in the power-I formation with no receivers and three running backs in the back field. Allbee said the coaching staff discovered the formation worked two years ago and have leaned on it ever since.
Against North Thurston, the Trojans put together a punishing 13-play, 78-yard drive in which they went to the power-I each of the final five plays. The formation also helps when the defense stacks the box, a tactic the line has struggled to handle at times.
“My biggest fear with the line and concern with the line is, if anything, having Larry Dixon back there creates problems for them,” Allbee said. “They’re going to have to block more guys than they normally would. With Larry, you’re going to see eight, nine, 10 guys in the box, which means our five guys have to block their 10. You do the math.”
“It also means it’s make or break,” he added. “All you need to do is give him a little daylight and it’s off to the races.”
Allbee said the team rarely talks about Dixon’s numbers, but it’s human nature to peak at the stats and track the record chase. And while winning games is the No. 1 priority, the offensive line is proud to play a role in their running back making history.
“I think they feel a sense of responsibility,” Allbee said. “Their thing is, they don’t want to let him down.”
“Getting him that record is probably the biggest measure of our success,” added right guard David McKennon.