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GIBSON CITY — It is called the Prowler, a sled upon which weights are stacked. Hayden Workman wasn't all that familiar with it prior to his junior year at Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley High School.

"I wasn't really into lifting," he said. "I didn't dedicate myself enough."

These days, "Workman" and "Prowler" often are uttered in the same sentence. They are teammates in a sense ... one helping the other become a dominant force on a GCMS football team seeking to repeat as Class 2A state champions.

The 6-foot-3 Workman was on the business end of the Prowler regularly in the winter, spring and summer. He weighed 220 pounds going in and came away near 270 for his senior season.

Along the way, the weight piled on the Prowler grew from week to week. It started at 400 pounds and by summer, Workman's work on it was a hot topic.

His footwear was scorching as well.

"He burned through the soles of his shoes a couple of times pushing it," GCMS coach Mike Allen said.

"Yeah, I tore up some shoes," Workman confirmed. "I was able to get it to 1,005 (pounds). I went 20 yards down and 20 yards back.

"That helped me a lot. You'll never go against a guy who's 1,000 pounds, but (if he's) 300 ... it makes it feel like, 'Man, that's a lot easier to push.'"

Workman has pushed through enough blocks on the defensive line to be in on close to 90 tackles with 22 solos and 14 tackles for loss. The totals would be higher had the Falcons' starters not routinely sat out second halves in a dominant regular season.

He also starts at right tackle for an offense averaging 45.4 points per game heading into Friday's 1 p.m. state championship rematch against Maroa-Forsyth at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.

"When he walks into a room, he fills it up. You know that boy can do some work," said GCMS senior quarterback/safety Nathan Garard. "When he got some playing time last year, we knew that he had to get mean and he definitely did this year. He kind of flipped the switch and he's firing off.

"If you talk to him he's always joking around. But I would not want to be in his way if he was coming at me."

Allen saw potential in Workman prior to last season, saying, "We thought he would be one of our starters at an offensive tackle."

However, Luke Freehill was a senior and Allen said Workman "kind of took a step back and let the senior take it."

An injury to Freehill during the season provided Workman an opportunity to play and Allen said he did well while helping the Falcons go 14-0. 

Then ...

"He just kicked butt in the weight room," Allen said.

"He's very strong," the GCMS coach added. "He's quick-footed for his size. He's a big boy and he doesn't get tired. He has a motor that just keeps going."

A wrestler as a sophomore, he did not go out last winter and immersed himself in the weight room at school and at Gibson City's Elite Performance Center.

"I was really wanting to put in the work," he said. "I knew that everyone on the team was dedicated to making another run. We were all wanting to lift, wanting to get better. It was our last season as seniors. We wanted to make it count, not have any doubt."

Workman was a disruptive force Saturday in a 14-7 semifinal win at Eastland-Pearl City. Along with helping bottle up the EPC offense, he blocked a punt.

GCMS also defeated EPC last season when the Wildcatz had 290-pound Peyton Asche, now a freshman lineman at Illinois State. Workman found it challenging to handle Asche's size.

Enter the Prowler.

"It seems like this year if I had that big of a guy over me, I could definitely move him," he said.

Defensive coordinator Chad Augspurger is confident of that. He used "night and day" to describe Workman's transformation, saying, "He is just strong as an ox. The level of play that he brings is impressive."

Workman soon will put his added muscle to work on the wrestling mat. He plans to wrestle heavyweight this year after competing at 182 as a sophomore.

He also plans to play college football, having received some Division III offers and one Division II opportunity so far. He will seek a school with the right mix of athletics, academics, location, etc.

And, perhaps, a Prowler.

Contact Randy Kindred at (309) 820-3402. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_kindred

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Sports Editor

Sports editor for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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