By Dave Morrison

NEW RICHMOND – It is hard enough to get on the field on a playoff team as a freshman. It’s probably twice as hard to do so as a lineman.

Charlie Stewart and Blake Cook did that last year for Wyoming East.

Now they are back and are part of a young line that will try to help the Warriors’ Caleb Bower back up his junior year when he had a school-record 2,034 yards and 26 touchdowns and was named to the Class AA first-team offense.

Not only did the freshman duo see the field they actually made starts.

All of which will help when the Warriors open the season hosting Mingo Central Sept. 4 at 7:30 p.m.

“It’s given me more experience of what to expect this year,” Stewart said.

Josh Reilley is the only senior starter returning this season. The Warriors captain will be at center. Last year he was really the only non-senior that started, although Stewart and Blake Cook made starts.

While Bower was racing to all-state status for the Warriors, who would finish 8-3 after falling in the playoffs to Oak Glen, it was another all-stater from whom Stewart learned the most: all-state offensive lineman Tanner Jenkins.

“Tanner Jenkins taught me a lot, so did Josh (Reilley),” Stewart said. “Tanner taught me about playing tackle, like how to block against the blitz. Josh motivates me every day.”

The Warriors to a man are high one the young guns on the line.

Especially Reilley, who gave an assessment of the youngsters on the line.

“(Stewart) is really smart and he’s got really good technique. He puts in work all the time during practice,” Reilley said. “(Cook) is working hard and he has just as good technique. They are both great assets to this team.”

The guys they are for whom they are charged with opening holes couldn’t be happier.

“Right now they are doing good, they are stepping up in the places we need filled,” Bower said. “I know we had a really good line last year but I think these guys are going to step up like they have in practice. Our line coach (Brandon Peck) has really working them good and I really think they are going to show out this year.”

“We had two great freshman last year, now sophomores who are going to step up and play and I think they are going to fill in great,” said running back Chase York. “I think our line will be just as good as last year.”

All this is no surprise to first-year head coach Jimmy Adkins.

“We have more depth up front than we do in the backfield or at the skill positions,”  coach Jimmy Adkins said. “Charlie Stewart has really stepped up. Blake Cook. Both of those boys will be sophomores and will have a big year, I feel.

Both Stewart and Cook went to the Brett Cooper All-American Camp back in the pre-pandemic days in December, right around Christmas.

“It was good, I learned a lot from college coaches,” Stewart said. “I learned how to block in different schemes, how to read defenses better.”

There is the thought in the Warriors camp that Stewart will soon be the next Tanner Jenkins, possibly even one of the preeminent offensive linemen in the state.

Stewart said he still talks with his mentor Jenkins at least once a week.

Others along that front this year will be Colton Repass, Charlie Price and Dakota McBride.

“I just want to help us get to the playoffs, and go even further (than a first round exit),” Stewart said. “It was a good experience, it was a different atmosphere. Everything seemed to be going a little faster.”

Stewart played a lot of that playoff game, after starter Isaac Perdue was injured.