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Bettendorf's Harrison Bey-Buie (32) attempts to make break a tackle of Cedar Falls' Nathan Gee (29) and Logan Clements (68) during a game last month. Bey-Buie has rushed for 1,101 yards and 19 touchdowns in six games.

Jack Hester was behind two all-state players on the depth chart last season.

There were minimal opportunities to produce on game nights with Darien Porter and Brandan Tillman logging the majority of snaps on the perimeter for the Bettendorf football program.

Hester finished the year with two grabs for 14 yards.

So after last season concluded, the Bettendorf coaches approached Hester about a position change, a drastic type of switch Aaron Wiley can't ever recall making with a player in his time as the Bulldogs' head coach.

Hester moved from receiver to left tackle. He went from wearing No. 8 to donning No. 74.

It required Hester to transform his body. 

Playing at around 185 pounds toward the end of the 2018 season, Hester was in the weight room six days a week during the offseason. He has added more than 45 pounds to his 6-foot-4 frame.

"I wasn't too happy about it at first, but I had to put the team before myself," said Hester, whose fifth-ranked Bulldogs travel to Kingston Stadium on Friday for a pivotal district game with sixth-ranked Cedar Rapids Kennedy. 

"I woke up every day with the best attitude I could knowing I need to get this done for my teammates."

The decision turned out to be wise for everyone.

Hester is part of an offensive line that has paved the way for the Bulldogs to accumulate 1,738 rushing yards — third most in Class 4A.

It has brought about college exposure for Hester recently, too.

In the past week, he has received scholarship offers from Western Illinois, Iowa Central, Concordia-St. Paul and Grand View. He has garnered interest from Iowa State, Minnesota State-Mankato and Northwest Missouri State.

"Honestly, I've always dreamed of playing college football, but when I made the transition, I pretty much came to the realization it wasn't going to happen," Hester said. "So to put in all the work, it is awesome to see the offers."

A new position has required a different mentality.

Receiver is about running precise routes and blocking on the edge. Tackle is going all out for 5 to 6 seconds against the player across from you.

"It is just a different kind of tired," Hester said.

After Nile Ridenour graduated last season, the coaching staff explored its options at the tackle position. Hester's body type stood out.

"He was starting to crack the 200-pound barrier and even as a receiver he could block," Wiley said. "He's really embraced that position."

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Hester labels himself as finesse. His footwork trumps his power.

"I'll definitely have to redshirt my first year in college to reach the same strength level as those guys," he said. 

Tailback Harrison Bey-Buie has grabbed the headlines for the Bulldogs with his eye-popping numbers through six games — 1,101 yards rushing, 19 touchdowns and 10.5 yards per carry average.

Hester, Griffin Liddle, Seth VanZuiden, Blake DeLeon, Max von Gries and Zach Marsh have created the running lanes for Bey-Buie and Bettendorf's other ball carriers.

"We get along and mesh really well up front," Liddle said. "We have a couple athletic guys, but overall it is just a lot of team work. We're always trying to one-up each other in practice."

Wiley gives props to line coach Mark Spranger. 

"Every year you can look at where our line starts and where they end, and I think a lot of that is attributed to the job Mark does with those guys," Wiley said. 

The Bulldogs (5-1, 2-0) expect to get a heavy challenge in the trenches this week.

Kennedy (5-1, 2-0) is second in 4A rushing at nearly 300 yards per game. It is stingy on defense as well with 10 takeaways and an all-state linebacker in Cade Parker.

"They're big and physical," Wiley said. "They're pretty basic but good at what they do. It will be a real challenge for us up front on both sides."

Wiley referred to it as old-school, tough, hard-nosed football.

"It ought to be a bloodbath," he said. "We'll find out how good we are Friday."

The Bulldogs need to avoid the turnovers, penalties and defensive breakdowns that hindered them in a 35-32 loss to second-ranked Cedar Falls three weeks ago.

The winner has an inside track to a district title and first-round home playoff game. The loser has to win out and likely would open the playoffs on the road.

"It is probably one of our biggest games of the season," Liddle said. "We've got to be spot-on with everything, remain focused and keep our head straight on."

For Hester, it'll be a new vantage point.

Unlike a year ago when he spent the majority of the Bulldogs' 41-14 victory watching from the sideline, he'll be in the midst of the action.

"Our goal at the end of the year isn't to beat Cedar Rapids Kennedy, it is to win a state championship," Hester said, "but (Kennedy) is a great team and a game we're looking forward to.

"It is exciting having a big role on this team."

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Sports Editor

Sports editor, with my emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 19 years, the last seven at the Q-C Times.