Toler the best defensive lineman in these parts

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Photo by Kevin Cook Hawk defensive tackle Austin Toler flattens Gladewater's Tristan Seahorn as the PG defense traps quarterback Robert Hodges behind the line.

At tight end, a key to running success

“We’re going to state!” senior lineman Austin Toler barked to his teammates as he came off the field, yielding to a sub midway through the fourth quarter of a state semifinal 45-14 drubbing of the Graham Steers.

He was met by his Pleasant Grove teammates with howls and huffs of hearty agreement.

Austin Toler

The son of Jennifer Miller and Jericho Toler, he was part of a group of linemen who had played together since middle school, some longer, and grew into a dominant, physical crew that was central to Pleasant Grove’s 15-0, state championship season.

Toler, who signed Tuesday with Harding University, is a 6-foot, 300-pounder, a three-year soccer letterman who can bench press 355 lbs. and squat more than 500. That translates into a big, strong guy who can run.

“Austin Toler is probably the most athletic of the group,” Gibson said. “He is the most dominant defensive lineman in the district. Game after game, he makes a big impact.”

Though he only caught two passes – one for a critical first down against Aubrey, the other for a TD – he was such a devastating blocker on the edge who sprung Pleasant Grove’s backs for countless big gains that the District 7-4A coaches were unanimous in selecting him for first team honors.

He was also a unanimous pick to the first-team defensive line, which shut held Celina to just 53 yards on 26 carries and harassed and pummeled West Orange-Stark in the state championship game.

Toler finished with 84 tackles, 17 for loss, five sacks and 15 quarterback pressures.

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A veteran journalist and educator, Bill Owney is a 1980 graduate of the University of Florida. Writing awards include APME honors for investigative reporting, the Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Award for public service reporting and numerous awards for editorial, column and news writing. He served as publisher of the Atlanta Citizens Journal and Pittsburg Gazette when each paper won sweepstakes awards from the Texas Press and North and East Texas Press Associations. He spent 15 years as a public school teacher and is an adjunct professor of English at Texarkana College.

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