CRETE | Crete-Monee senior running back DeShaun Smith said he know when he gets a handoff, there will be a big hole to run through.
He has that much faith in offensive lineman Josh McCaskel.
"I wouldn't want to run behind anyone else in the state," Smith said. "Josh gets the job done. Period. That is my opinion."
The opinion of most defenders is they do not want to see the 300-pound McCaskel trying to flatten them.
McCaskel is the lone returning offensive lineman from a line which allowed just four sacks last year en route to helping the Warriors win the Class 6A title. McCaskel came up to the varsity as a freshman for the playoffs, and he's now a three-year starter. He said it's source of pride making sure the quarterback does not get sacked.
"To us, it is an insult to us to see the quarterback on the floor," McCaskel said. "It is our job to protect him. If he gets sacked, we didn't do our job, and we take it personally."
The Warriors open their 2013 season at 7 p.m. today on the road against T.F. South.
As a sophomore starter, he was part of a line which allowed just eight sacks.
"Our goal is to get it down some more this year," McCaskel said. "If we open the holes or give the quarterback time, we will move the ball."
Such was the case with former quarterback Marcus Terrell, who threw for 40 touchdowns and 3,347 yards last season. The line gave Terrell time to hit star receivers Laquon Treadwell and Lance Lenoir. As the lone returning starter up front, McCaskel said he has to be more of a role model.
"One way is to go out and do my job," McCaskel said. "The other is to work with the other lineman and make sure we are all together. Teamwork is what wins games, and we have to play as a team like we did last year."
Warriors coach John Konecki said McCaskel uses his brains as well as his brawn on the field.
"Josh is an extremely intelligent offensive lineman who has worked hard to hone his craft," Konecki said of McCaskel. "He is the veteran of the group and takes a tremendous amount of ownership over the play of the unit"
The senior class has never lost at any level. McCaskel, Smith and Nyles Morgan were on varsity as sophomores when the Warriors suffered a Class 6A second-round playoff loss to Peoria Richwoods in 2011. That left a lasting impression on McCaskel.
"We were on that field and we all three vowed we would never lose again," McCaskel said. "Especially the way we lost (turnovers, penalties), we never want to have that feeling again."
He said he learned quite a bit from past linemen like his older brother Johnnie McCaskel plus Jimmy Walsh and Austin Rosenfeldt.
"We have had some great linemen and we want to keep that tradition going," McCaskel said.