Halstead’s football success in 2014, which included a 10-3 record and a Class 3A semifinal berth, was due in part to two players — quarterback Eli McKee and running back Blake Beckett, an All-Metro linebacker.
By no means did they shoulder the entire load for the Dragons, and it’s the same this season.
Halstead, ranked second in Class 3A, plays host to Hesston (1-0) on Friday. Hesston beat Halstead 42-14 in 2014.
McKee and Beckett combined for nearly 300 rushing yards in a season-opening 48-6 win over Haven.
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“We’ve got some players who do a lot of the dirty work — our big tight end/defensive end Tate Kaufman and Layke Heimerman, a talented running back and linebacker,” Halstead coach Jason Grider said. “On our offensive line, obviously Taylor Armstrong has been phenomenal.”
And then there’s senior Zach Wright and junior Gage Hardtarfer. They moved from fullback to offensive line.
“There’s never been too much conversation about it,” Grider said. “It was, ‘coach, whatever we need to do that’s best for the team.’
“… We’re pretty blessed with our talented skill kids. We felt like we have a lot of speed in the backfield and a lot of interchangeable parts. But we were thin up front.”
Wright and Hardtarfer have filled the void well.
“They’ve made us more athletic on the line,” Grider said. “And technique, they’ve both picked it up real quick. They’ve just done an outstanding job for us, just real unselfish.”