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Central's Wolsey gets second chance at block
By Scott Roscovius ~ Southeast Missourian
Joe Wolsey had made a mistake, and he knew it.
Wolsey, a 6-foot-3, 270-pound Central senior, plays left tackle for the Tigers football team. Central trailed top-seeded Sikeston 14-10 in the fourth quarter of Wednesday night's Class 4, District 1 semifinal in Sikeston.
But the Tigers were driving for the potential go-ahead score. Facing a fourth-and-3 from the Bulldogs' 42, Central sent senior running back Chris Martin on a run to the left, Wolsey's side of the line.
But Martin gained just two yards, and the Tigers turned the ball over on downs with just 3 minutes, 31 seconds remaining in the game.
Wolsey headed toward the Tigers' sideline and pulled off his helmet, dejection clearly evident from the scowl on his face.
That's when Tigers assistant coach Tim McGuire got in Wolsey's face.
"Come on!" McGuire exhorted. "You've got to WANT to make that block!"
Wolsey walked to the end of the bench and faced the field, but he could see very little. His eyes were clenched tightly shut, a whisper of steam rising from his head as the elevated temperature of his body met the cool night air.
He replayed the scene in his head ... how he had missed his steps blocking on the play, allowing his Bulldog counterpart to stuff the run short of a first down.
"Right when I came off the ball I knew that I had thought too much," Wolsey said. "I was trying to kick him [to the outside]. I kind of stutter-stepped, and [the Sikeston lineman] got by me."
"He didn't take a great first step and let the guy get inside on him," the Tigers' assistant said. "I told him, ‘I know you can make the block. You're gonna have another chance,' and he did later in the game."
Wolsey watched as his defensive teammates clamped down and forced the Bulldogs to turn the ball over on downs on Central's 26 with 2:18 left.
Running their two-minute offense to perfection, Tigers quarterback Dennis Vinson crisply guided the Tigers downfield. His fourth-down pass to senior receiver Garan Evans put the ball on the Sikeston 8. A Bulldogs penalty moved the ball to the 4. First and goal, less than a minute remaining.
The play call was a run, Martin carrying the ball, again to the left side. Wolsey's side.
He wouldn't make the same mistake twice.
"I was just ready to win," Wolsey said. "It was a different play, but to the same side, and similar blocking. I blocked him down and to the inside."
Along with left guard Zach Stagner and fullback Jacob Margetta, the three cleared just enough space for Martin to edge the nose of the football over the goal line for the game-winning score in the Tigers' 17-14 victory.
"It's a great learning experience," Tigers coach Nathan Norman said of the series of plays, noting how the emotions of high school football can rise and fall in a matter of moments. "You've got to try and coach them up and build them up in practice."
That's been the case for Wolsey, who's thoroughly enjoying his first year in Central's starting lineup as the Tigers (5-6) prepare to meet Hillsboro in Wednesday's district final. He's a big piece of the puzzle for a Central team that averages more than 232 yards per game on the ground.
"Joe has made huge strides this year," Norman said. "He's one of our main guys when it comes to the offensive line."
McGuire recalled the missed block and how Wolsey adjusted.
"That instance ... every day, Joe takes his steps and pushes with his hands on the defensive lineman. He does it every day. That time, he didn't get his steps down.
"I challenged him when he came off the field. These kids, sometimes you have to challenge them."
Objective accomplished. Lesson learned.