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Springfield News-Leader

Why Lebanon football's historic rushing attack keeps on rolling

By Wyatt D. Wheeler, Springfield News-Leader,


Since 2015, the Lebanon flexbone offense has kept opposing defensive coordinators up all night wondering if anything can slow them down.

It wasn't just an offense, it was an identity. Yellowjackets head coach Will Christian had a vision that his team dressed in gold and black would be more physical than everyone else. Great players have come through the program over the years and the team a year ago went down as the fifth-best rushing attack in the state's history.

After losing a few key ball-carriers, including a first-team all-state performer, Lebanon would surely have a drop-off.

But after a 34-0 win at Kickapoo (2-1) on Friday night, Lebanon (3-0) left no doubt that the machine that is its offense will keep on churning.

"It's just culture," star junior fullback Jax Glendenning said. "We breed tough players. It doesn't matter how big we are here at Lebanon. We just pound it down the face and it just works out. We have studs every year."

Lebanon develops players in its offense early. From elementary school to junior high programs, the Yellowjackets raise their stars of tomorrow.

Glendenning, whose name should be mentioned as one of the best running backs in the Ozarks, benefited from it. He had an unofficial 151 yards and two scores on Friday night which gives him about 435 yards and eight touchdowns through three games.

Glendenning credits his tough running style as one that was bred since he was in elementary school at Joel E. Barber. The same school helped produce Nathan Bartel who graduated after last season. When healthy, he was a 600-plus-yard rusher and complimented Cade Muscia to perfection last season — who rushed for 2,016 yards and 30 scores en route to one of the News-Leader Player of the Year honors.

"In our program, it's from the ground up," Christian said. "We're starting to see some of the benefits and fruits of that with class after class."

So far this season, Lebanon is averaging 357 yards on the ground after rushing for 258 against one of the better defenses it'll face this season on Friday night. The group from a year ago averaged 390.5 yards per game on the ground for 5,076 yards over 13 games. It can't be ruled out that this year's team can be even better.

Lebanon's offense is unique as no one else in the Ozark Conference is running the same thing. It's a headache for opposing coaches to gameplan for when they've seen spread offenses and others throughout the year.

The talent is top-notch with Glendenning being the featured back but plenty of others see their time with the ball as well. Senior quarterback Gavin Smith orchestrated the offense a year ago while rushing for 1,007 yards and 18 touchdowns. He continues to run the ball well and Lebanon will sneak in a pass every once in a while when its opponents least expect it. He had a passing touchdown to senior receiver Hoyt Honey who is a big target at 6-foot-3.

Senior slotback Andrew Bowling has also emerged when he's waited his turn to find a role. He led the team in a win over Hillcrest (0-3) with 113 yards and a score and he's fitting in nicely in the spot Glendenning excelled in a year ago.

With all the talent in the backfield, Lebanon has been known to have one of the best offensive lines in the Ozarks year after year. From time to time, it will send a player to Mizzou with Justin Britt being the marquee name who started for the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX.

"It's all about the offensive line," Glendenning said. "You just have to read it and our o-line is great every year. That's how we roll."

And for as great as the offense is already proving to be, the Lebanon defense is trending toward one of the better groups it's fielded in years. Last season, the Yellowjackets allowed 16.2 points per game — their second-best over a six-year stretch that's seen them win five district titles. So far this year, the Jackets have allowed just seven points through three games.

Their shut-out of Kickapoo was the first time the Jackets had done so in five years. It also came against an offense that was averaging 50.5 points entering the night. A number of two-way players, including Glendenning, flew around the field after Cannon Roark set the tone with a pick-six on Kickapoo's first offensive play.

"That was just preparation throughout the week," Glendenning said. "We fight hard throughout the week and we practice how we play. That's how coaches teach us and that's how we roll and that's how it works."

Another tough week of preparation is on deck for a game that could very well turn out to be the Ozark Conference championship game by the season's end. Bolivar (3-0), the only other undefeated team in the OC, will make the trip over to Lebanon.

Lebanon will be ready with an offense that could be trending toward another historic season and a defense that is starting to dominate.

"This was a huge win," Glendenning said. "There were questions coming into the season because we lost a lot of absolute studs from last year. We proved tonight that the OC still runs through Lebanon."

Wyatt D. Wheeler is a reporter and columnist with the Springfield News-Leader. You can contact him at 417-371-6987, by email at or X at @WyattWheeler_NL. He's also the host of the weekly "Wyatt's World Podcast" on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and other podcasting platforms.

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