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Wrestlers, Football players, and a school called HOXIE. Breaking with trad
Inspired by the success of their school’s wrestling team, the Hoxie Indians football team decided it was their turn
Published: Summer 2004

When in comes to wrestling tradition, there’s no doubt that one school in Northwest Kansas is recognized for having a level of excellence few have achieved. With 10 state titles and 11 state runner-up titles, Hoxie High School in Hoxie, Kansas, regularly produces some of the best grapplers in the state. The football team at Hoxie also had a reputation, but it was one they wished they could leave behind: The Hoxie Indians had not made it to the playoffs even once in the past 13 seasons.
It’s easy to understand why the Hoxie Indians had a hard time reaching the high standards of the wrestling team. “The league we play in is very competitive,” says assistant football coach John Petrie. “It’s tough to get into the playoffs when you have to play some of the teams we play every year. Our biggest problem is that our players are not very big.” It’s true. Petrie says the Indians have an average bodyweight of 175-180 pounds – “if we are lucky” – but must often play with athletes who average approximately 220 pounds bodyweight per man.
Until the time comes that the sport of football follows the lead of wrestling and divides its competitions into bodyweight classes, the Hoxie Indians will continue to try to find ways to make up their size difference. “Our kids are not very big, but they are fast and strong, and that’s where the Bigger Faster Stronger program helps us the most,” says Petrie. “Our kids work extremely hard in the weightroom and on the practice field. We have come to believe that size doesn’t matter – it’s how hard you work that makes the difference.”
Redemption

This year the Indians started the season with 11 returning starters, nine on offense and two on defense, and a positive attitude that this season was going to be different. On the team was quarterback Matt Gilliland, an all-league honorable mention, and all three of their top running backs: Doug Campbell, Jordan Vickers and Danny Meyer. Their first game was against the Goodland High School Cowboys, a team the Indians had beat the previous year 26-14. “I have all the confidence in the world that these kids will have a successful season,” head coach Dick Heskett predicted.
However, the opener was a disaster, as not only did the Indians lose 35-16, two of their starters sustained injuries that required them to be rushed to a hospital by ambulance. With only 28 players available for the remainder of the season, Coach Heskett knew that depth would certainly be an issue in the future of the team. But he stayed positive and saw some good things happen in that first game, especially on defense. “I was proud that our kids never quit and worked hard the entire game,” says Heskett, adding he was confident that the team could put the loss behind them and focus on their next opponent. They did. Big time.
The following week the Indians rushed for over 500 yards, with more than 200 yards each by Jordan Vickers and Doug Campbell, to easily defeat the Colby High School Eagles 54-12. They won their next five games, scoring 70 points in one game, before being stopped 34-16 against St. Francis High School. To get into the playoffs and thereby reverse their unwanted tradition, the Indians needed to finish the regular season with a victory over Oberlin High School.
And did they ever. Led by Jordan Vickers with 148 rushing yards and two TDs, the Hoxie Indians ran over Oberlin, 50-8. The outcome was never in question, as the team led 44-0 halfway through the third quarter. This victory was followed by two dominating wins in the Class 2A playoffs, 42-12 against Osborne, and then 52-6 against Meade. Their miracle season ended with a 40-30 loss to Garden Plain, which went on to play in the finals.
The Indians finished the season 9-3, ranking them fifth in the state. Offensive leaders for the Indians included Doug Campbell, Jordan Vickers and Mat Gilliland, with 1507, 1484 and 1063 yards respectively.
After such a year, Coach Dick Heskett and his Indians have a lot to be proud of. Who knows, maybe next year the wrestlers at Hoxie High School will find themselves drawing inspiration from the football team.

Another pin for the Hoxie Indians
Hoxie High School has been a dominate wrestling force in North West Kansas.
The Indians finished the season 9-3, ranking them fifth in the state. Offensive leaders for the Indians included Doug Campbell, Jordan Vickers and Mat Gilliland, with 1507, 1484 and 1063 yards respectively.
“Our kids are not very big, but they are fast and strong, and that’s where the Bigger Faster Stronger program helps us the most,” says Coach John Petrie
“Our kids are not very big, but they are fast and strong, and that’s where the Bigger Faster Stronger program helps us the most,” says Coach John Petrie
“Our kids are not very big, but they are fast and strong, and that’s where the Bigger Faster Stronger program helps us the most,” says Coach John Petrie

Return to Summer 2004 Articles


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