Mitch Wantock played fullback for Linn-Mar last season and helped the Lions make the playoffs. He did a lot of blocking for Jer Garman, but not much running.
Garman graduated and now Wantock is the featured tailback. From the look of things so far, the Lions haven't missed a beat.
Wantock galloped for 182 yards and two touchdowns Friday night when Linn-Mar walloped Dubuque Wahlert, 54-22, in a Mississippi Valley Conference game in Dubuque.
The Lions broke school records for rushing yards in a single game (514) and total offense (656) while raising their record to 3-and-0.
Wantock has carried the ball 36 times this season for 341 yards and three touchdowns. He's averaging 9.5 yards per carry and 113.7 yards per game as the Lions keep rolling along.
Linn-Mar Coach Bob Forsyth was confident he'd have a good running game again this season. Quarterback Mark Atwater has rushed 29 times for 305 yards and three TDs for an average of 10.5 yards per carry and 101.7 yards per game.
That gives the Lions two 100-yard runners in the same backfield, making it tough for opposing defenses.
"Obviously we miss Garman, but I felt like we had effective replacements," Forsyth said Monday. "They're doing well."
Wantock is the second-leading rusher in the Metro area behind Xavier tailback Carter Valentine, who has carried the ball 59 times for 440 yards this season.
Wantock battled Brandon Ophoff for the tailback spot in training camp, and Forsyth is confident when he sends Ophoff into the game. Linn-Mar also is getting good work from Nick Trabucco, who has replaced Wantock as the starting fullback.
Garman broke 12 school records during his career at Linn-Mar and finished with 4,474 yards on the ground and 52 touchdowns. He's now playing as a freshman at the University of North Dakota.
Wantock said he learned a lot from watching Garman run with the ball at tailback.
"I learned to follow my blockers and run hard," he said. "But me and Jer are a lot different in styles. He's more of a quick guy. I'm bigger, and a little slower."
He's a tad slower perhaps, but not slow. Wahlert had trouble catching him Friday night, especially in the first half when he ran for 150 yards and clicked off a pair of 50-yarders.
Garman is 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds, while Wantock stands 6-1 and a solid 195.
Wantock was a two-way starter for Linn-Mar last season at middle linebacker and fullback. He still sees spot duty on defense, but his primary job is carrying the ball.
Wantock had to wait for his chance to play tailback, just like other Linn-Mar players have to wait until they're seniors to step into the spotlight on offense. Andy Henry is another example. He didn't get to catch many passes as a junior, but now he's the star receiver as a senior and a college prospect.
Forsyth likes to reload like that.
"That's what we're striving for as a program," he said. "You want to be in that mode. Obviously with juniors, if we can fit them in there we will, but you hope to be in that mode. They develop and play great their senior year."
Wantock knows the score. He carried the ball only 14 times for 73 yards last season before becoming the featured runner this year. "There are plenty of good players," he said.
The Lions host Waterloo West Friday night.
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