Wyoming East has no shortage of offensive standouts.
Caleb Bower. Seth Ross. Jake Bishop. A veteran offensive line.
What about the guys nobody has heard of ... yet?
Just as important, if you ask Wyoming East coach Larry Thompson. And he said just that after the Warriors won the annual battle for the Golden Shovel over Westside 44-14 Friday night at the War Zone.
"Everybody knows on paper who our aces are," Thompson said. "With that being said, I teach these kids that everybody is on the same level. There is no one person who is bigger than the team. If you get those kids to buy into that and show up on every play, you have success. And that is what happened tonight."
To say Brandon Simpson's 2018 season ended on a low note would be putting it mildly.
He was ejected from the Man game and sat out the next week against Independence. Then he was sick and missed the season finale at Liberty.
Fast forward a year and Simpson is exactly the kind of player that Thompson said his squad needs.
"He is a role player and that is exactly what successful teams have," Thompson said. "Brandon stepped up to the plate for us."
Simpson had 66 yards rushing on three carries and a 9-yard touchdown pass from Ross and he also had seven tackles and a fumble recovery on defense.
"I feel like I did pretty good, but I can do a whole lot better," Simpson said. "That's just a little bit of what I can do. I'm just here to help. I can run the ball. I can catch the ball. It means a lot that I can help this team."
His touchdown was his first varsity score.
And then there was Christian Sams, a senior defensive back who is all of 5-foot-6, 154 pounds.
"Well, first of all, his nickname is Cujo for a reason, Cujo the dog, because that kid is a dog," Thompson said. "He doesn't care how big he is, he just wants to be on the field. Us as coaches, we had to find a way to get that young man on the field and that is exactly what we did."
It is said that Cujo is Indian for unstoppable force, but more likely it's a name Steven King made up for his 1981 novel by the same name. But it fits for Sams.
"He was putting pressure on the quarterback all night," Thompson said. "He actually ended up with a sack or two (he was credited with one). That was good for his confidence, that was good for our defense."
His teammates noticed.
"One of the guys that might not be known as much because he hasn't been here as long is Christian Sams," Bishop said. "He balled out tonight. They put him at safety or ran him off the edge on the corner blitz. He was a dog tonight."
Then there were guys known for being standouts on one side of the ball who were factors in other areas.
Bishop himself is known as a receiver. Wyoming East didn't have to throw a lot, so Bishop didn't have a lot of targets and he caught two passes. Defensively he had nine tackles and two fumble recoveries.
"I've played defensive end my whole life," Bishop said. "I usually go up against guys a lot stronger than me. But it's all technique and great coaching, allowing me to play that right technique."
Bower is known for his good work as a running back. He, too, stood out on defense with 10 tackles and two sacks.
In a long season, teams need a surplus of competent role players for success and Wyoming East showed it has those.
Email Independent Herald reporter Dave Morrison at firstname.lastname@example.org.