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Williams changes role to aid team

When Anthony Williams touched the ball for the first time this season, he closed his eyes. When he opened them, he was in the end zone.

The MacArthur senior nose guard has played defense his whole life. It wasn't until the Highlanders played Eisenhower that he got a chance to show what he could do with the ball in his hands.

Walter Neil slipped into the Ike backfield to block a punt in the third quarter and after doing so, the ball bounced right up into Williams' hands. Williams had about 30 yards between him and the end zone but no Eagle was able to catch him.

"Once Walter blocked it, I heard him on the field tell me to scoop it," Williams said. "I honestly had put my trust in him to block the punt and I felt like with the speed that I do have, I was going to score. At first, I was like, 'Is this even real?' and then I took off and I kind of like closed my eyes and when I opened them, I was in the end zone."

That might be the only time this year Williams shows up in the box score because he spends most of his time working in the trenches from a position where stats are hard to come by.

In MacArthur's defensive scheme with three down linemen, Williams' job is often to occupy multiple blockers to help free up the linebackers to make plays.

"He's very valuable," Mac head coach Brett Manning said of Williams. "The position may not get a lot of glory as far as TV and newspaper and stuff, but it does out here with us."

It's a tough job that Williams has grown to embrace and one that he didn't really even anticipate for his senior year. Williams had played linebacker his entire career before making the switch to nose guard before this season.

"At first, I'm not going to lie, it was a little rough having to learn to get double-teamed more often and being up against the big guys automatically every play," Williams said. "Coach (Odell) Gunter and Coach Ernie Manning, they worked with me throughout the spring and the offseason and eventually I started to kind of like it a little bit more. I still kind of had the speed from being a linebacker. That's kind of an advantage being on the line."

The position change is an example of Williams sacrificing for what's best for the team.

"He helped us out a lot by switching positions," Manning said. "He had been a linebacker his whole career here. Last spring, we moved him down to nose guard because we didn't want TJ (Fiailoa) playing both ways all the time and he's done a really great job of assuming that role. He had great games against Altus and Ardmore both just by staying low and not getting blown out of there. Those nose guards face a lot of double teams going against that offense. He stayed low and created piles and did a great job."

Williams' job has been toughest against Altus and Ardmore's flexbone offense. Mac's defense was on the field most of the night in those matchups, but Williams says he kind of likes the added responsibility.

"It's more playing time on the field," Williams said. "It does get tough with as much as they have the ball and it's a run play nine times out of 10. I feel like if I just do my assignment, my teammates will have me on the tosses and everything else that isn't my assignment."

Williams got to enjoy the most exciting moments of the 29-28 Ardmore win from the sideline with his offense driving in search of tying or taking the lead in the final minute.

"It felt unreal," Williams said of the drive. "At first for a little bit, I was kind of like, 'Man, maybe we needed this.' Then I thought about it and knew that if we kept our heads up, and I knew that Coach Manning had a great gameplan, that we'd stick it out and make a good play."

The Highlanders remain perfect at 7-0 after the Ardmore win, a start to the year that not many expected after they graduated so many starters.

"I always had faith in us," Williams said. "I felt like it could be possible if we just did our assignments right. I knew we were going to be coached up to be pretty good. Walter and Bryan (Burns), being the leaders on the field, and reminding the d-linemen to stay low, making sure that the DBs have their assignments. With their leadership, it has helped a lot."

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