In all likelihood, Hoxie High School senior lineman Colton Heskett will miss the first game for the defending Eight-Man Division I state champion Indians.

That’s the bad news.

The good news?

Even without him the Indians still have arguably two of the best linemen among the eight-man ranks. That’s just a sign of how loaded the Indians are up front this season. It’s an entity that could play a key factor if Hoxie has any hopes of repeating their title feat in 2018.

“We’re still trying to figure out who we are — who we’re going to be this year,” Hoxie coach Lance Baar said.

But those questions don’t come in the trenches. With Heskett and seniors Jarrod Dible and Taye Washington returning, the 10th-year Indian coach knows exactly what he’s getting.

Dible and Heskett have been starters for Hoxie since they were freshman, and Washington, the Indians’ 6-foot-5, 310-pound center and nose guard, has started the last two years, and was a part-time starter as a freshman.

“To have a unit that has been together as long as them is very uncommon in high school football,” Baar said.

The trio’s experience has equaled dominance for the Indians on both sides of the ball. Not only did they anchor a line that led one of the most prolific run games in eight-man a season ago, but they were the front for a defense that permitted just nine points per game in a 12-1 run to the school’s first state title.

“Our line is still looking good,” said Dible. “Just have to put everything together.”

Dible checks in at 5-foot-11, 220 pounds this season with Heskett listed at 6-2, 215. Heskett is likely to miss Week 1 against Tribune-Greeley County with an ankle issue, but could be back Week 2 in a big home showdown with perennial powerhouse Osborne.

Dible, who actually is moving to end to provide a big target for senior quarterback Jared Kennedy, said even in Heskett’s absence, the Indians are pretty solid. Senior Sam Bretz is stepping in to fill Dible’s spot on the line.

Dible, a bit more athletic than his bigger counterparts, likely will be used in the passing game.

“Jarrod gives us a big body to throw at — a red zone target,” Baar said. “He can do all the things we need him to do at that tight end position.”

That’s just one noticeable change on Hoxie’s offense. The biggest change from the title team, however, is the loss of Latham Schwarz, who toted what Kennedy called “three-fourths” of Hoxie’s run load.

“It’s going to be a little tougher not having everyone we had last year,” Kennedy said. “But, I think it’s a new challenge. And I think we’re up for it.”

With what Hoxie boasts up front, what quarterback wouldn’t be confident in his club’s ability to make a run?