Superlarks expand their attackPublished 9:12pm Monday, October 8, 2012
GRAND MEADOW — This football season has been filled with transition, adversity and triumph for the Superlarks. Grand Meadow benefitted from its quarterback who’s finally getting to throw consistently and a young running back who’s feeling more and more comfortable with every carry.
Before this season, the Larks had always prided themselves on being a team that could run the football on nearly every down. Then, over the summer, GM head coach Gary Sloan decided he was going to take a more balanced approach and let junior quarterback Trenton Bleifus air it out a little more.
The passing game has been successful this season and Sloan’s experiment eventually became a necessary as the season rolled along and running backs Perry Stejskal and Cameron Gomer suffered injuries.
“The injuries have made it more of a necessity,” Sloan said. “We tried to look at our athletes and see where we can be the most dangerous and we do have quite a few people who can catch the ball and run.”
Attacking through the air
Bleifus has thrown for nearly 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. More impressively, he’s shared the wealth as he’s hit six different teammates for scores, and four GM receivers have at least 14 catches. Bleifus, who started all of last season at quarterback and played some of his freshman year as well, has maintained accuracy as he’s completed nearly 60 percent of his throws and his only interception of the season went through his receiver’s hands.
Bleifus rarely got a chance to throw over the past two seasons, but now he’s relishing his chances to pass, especially since a recent dislocated finger forced him to play as a pocket quarterback.
“We rarely passed when I was a freshman and it was all Caleb (Leicthnam) running the ball. Now we’re mixing it up and I think it’s better for us,” Bleifus said. “The offensive line’s been blocking well in front of me all year.”
The next Number Five
Leichtnam is now a sophomore at Rochester Community and Technical College, where he shattered the NJCAA record with 20 interceptions last season, but Sloan sometimes has flashbacks of his former play-maker while watching this year’s team.
Landon Jacobson, a sophomore running back, has emerged as GM’s primary ball carrier in the absence of Stejskal. Jacobson has already reached 1,000 all-purpose yards and he’s scored 11 touchdowns.
“Landon’s a pretty special player,” Sloan said. “He’s not the biggest guy in the world, but in certain ways he reminds me a lot of Caleb Leichtnam. He’s not as fast as Caleb, but his ability to make people miss is about the same.”
It’s no coincidence that Jacobson runs like Leichtnam. He grew up watching Leichtnam and he chose to wear No. 5 on his jersey because Leichtnam wore it with the Larks.
“I took number five after Caleb and I always wanted to be like him. I always wanted to work to be as good as he is and I’m working for it,” Jacobson said. “Now that I’m getting more carries, it’s getting easier and the game’s a lot slower. You don’t have to think as much.”
A major test on Friday
The Larks have rattled off six straight wins while outscoring their opponents 44.8-13.8 per game, but they’re about to face their biggest test of the season. GM will play at No.3 ranked Spring Grove (6-0 overall) with the Southeast Conference title and the top-seed in Section 1 on the line this Friday at 7 p.m.
The Lions are outscoring their opponents 55.3-17.3 per game and they are tied with GM in the QRF rankings at No. 7 in the state.
Sloan said the Larks will have a healthy lineup for the game and he expects a battle.
“Spring Grove is probably head and shoulders better than anybody we’ve played and it’ll be challenge on offense and defense,” Sloan said. “They’re a very aggressive team defensively and they’re gonna blitz like crazy. We’ve got to pick those guys up.”
Bleifus remembers how SG ended GM’s season last year with a 28-0 win in the playoffs. On Sunday, he was at Sloan’s house to get an early look at the game tape of the Lions.
“I’ve been waiting for this game all season,” Bleifus said.
The Lions return four starters on both sides of the ball from last season and the Larks have a little more experience on their side as GM has 10 seniors on its roster. Jacobson knows it will be the ultimate test for a team that has drastically changed its offensive identity in the last year.
“It’s gonna be a challenge and it won’t even be on the same level as the other games we’ve played. It’ll be harder and a lot more physical,” Jacobson said.
Sloan doesn’t expect Bleifus or Jacobson to crack under the pressure.
In fact, he expects them to thrive.
“Landon and Trenton both like a challenge and they like to be in the limelight,” Sloan said. “They don’t mind pressure.”
PUTTING UP NUMBERS
Trenton Bleifus — Passing: 49-for-83 (59 percent), 899 yards, 10 TDs, 1 INT; Rushing: 33-for-429 (13 per carry), 8 TDs; Defense: 37 total tackles, 3 interceptions
Landon Jacobson — 1,086 all-purpose yards; Rushing: 81-for-62, 602 yards (7.4 per carry), 10 TDs; Receiving: 19-for-288 (15 per catch), 1 TD; Defense — 56 total tackles, 2 intercerptions, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery