By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
WEST BRANCH – Behind the statistics of any successful running back is a strong offensive line.
That has certainly been the case for West Branch senior Luke Lenoch the past two seasons.
The big guys up front paved the way for Lenoch to pile up more nearly 4,000 rushing yards the last two years.
“It all starts up front,” Lenoch said. “Those guys are incredible.”
A scary thought for West Branch opponents trying to bottle up Lenoch this season is the Bears believe this year’s offensive line could be the best yet.
Jacob Barnhart, Cole Tisinger, John Krall
“I think we can be better than last year,” senior center John Krall said. “We have three returning guys that know what they are doing, we have two very talented younger guys that are coming in and they have the strength and the talent to do whatever they need to.”
Krall is one of those three returning starters on an offensive line that helped Lenoch rush for 1,829 yards last season.
Helped West Branch rush for 236 yards a game during its 11-1 season.
“We have three guys that have a year of experience up there and that helps,” Barnhart said. “I think with that experience we can be even better than we were last year.”
The 6-foot-5, 295-pound Barnhart was a second-team all-state pick last year and anchors the line form his tackle spot.
Tisinger, a 6-foot-2, 265-pound senior and Krall (6-4, 260) give the Bears a big, talented and experience returning core.
“We have a couple of new guys to work in but I think we can be as good as we were last year,” Tisinger said.
West Branch will need to plug in a pair of new starters but has several players waiting to step in.
Junior Andrew Black (6-1, 210) is expected to slide into one of the openings and the competition is heating up for the other open spot.
“We have three returning starters in the line and they are all big kids and they do a lot of things really well,” West Branch coach Butch Pedersen said. “The key is going to be finding the two other spots and we think we have some candidates that can do that.”
The rushing stats all begin with the play up front and the line plays starts with an attitude.
At West Branch the power football mentality begins early.
“We have the philosophy that we have to run the ball to win games and we take a lot of pride in moving people,” West Branch offensive line coach Kyle Haganman said. “Hopefully that’s a strength for us.”
Last year West Branch was one of the most potent offensive teams in Class 1A.
The Bears ranked second in 1A averaging 41.3 points per game and averaged better than 395 total yards per game.
At the heart of the offensive production was the offensive line that helped the Bears rush for more than 200 yards in nine games last season.
“We always want to power it at teams,” Krall said. “When it comes right down to it we want to try to knock teams back and that starts with the offensive line.”