Tayden Gentrup set himself up to be in the spotlight during his senior season on the Lincoln Pius X football team.
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound linebacker was the top returning tackler from a year ago with 70 tackles, including four quarterback sacks and six tackles for losses. And he really started coming into his own about this time last year with 12 stops against Bellevue West and 11 more two weeks later against Lincoln Southeast.
Gentrup, a member of Pius X’s Class B state championship basketball team last winter, worked on his agility and mobility during the offseason to prepare himself not only for his linebacker duties, but also as an offensive threat at tight end.
But a lack of size and experience on the Thunderbolts’ offensive and defensive fronts brought about a change of plans. Gentrup went from No. 88 last season to No. 52 this fall, a move inside to tackle on both offense and defense.
Instead of being the one catching touchdown passes over smaller defenders or the one making tackles behind the line of scrimmage, Gentrup became the one doing the dirty work to allow someone else to make those plays.
“We asked Tayden to do something a little less glamorous for us this season, and he’s done a great job on both sides of the ball,” said Pius X coach Ryan Kearney, whose 1-3 Thunderbolts host No. 1 Bellevue West (4-0) at Aldrich Field on Friday night.
“He’s strong and extremely quick for a lineman inside, and he commands a lot of attention from blockers,” Kearney added. “That’s opened things up for our linebackers to come in and make plays.”
You have free articles remaining.
Gentrup had 33 tackles at this point a year ago, and Kearney estimates that the senior’s tackle totals are “somewhere in the teens” heading into week 5.
Gentrup would like to play college football somewhere next season, and is projected as an outside linebacker by the area NAIA schools currently recruiting him.
“I’m definitely a team guy, and with the personnel we have this season, it was best for the team that I move inside,” said Gentrup, one of only two seniors over 200 pounds on the Pius X roster. “It’s challenging going against the bigger guys, but I’ve enjoyed the change.”
Tyler Lonergan has stepped into one of the linebacker roles, and the 195-pound junior has responded with a team-high 35 tackles. He also recovered a fumble in the Thunderbolts’ first win of the season last Friday, a 34-0 shutout at Lincoln High.
“That really boosted our confidence (defensively) coming into this week,” Lonergan said. “It gives us something to build on the rest of the season.”
Slowing down Bellevue West’s prolific offense might be one of the most challenging tasks Kearney has faced during his four years as Pius X head coach. The Thunderbirds average 53.3 points and 525 yards of total offense per game, perfectly balanced between the run and pass.
First-team Super-State running back Jay Ducker, a Northern Illinois commit, has 593 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns through four games. Senior Nate Glantz, a transfer from Millard West, has stepped in to complete just over 67 percent of his passes (60 of 89) for 1,154 yards and 13 TDs, while also rushing for 220 yards and one score.
Glantz’s main target has been 6-3 senior Nebraska recruit and Super-State wide receiver Zavier Betts, who has 19 catches for 526 yards and seven TDs.
“They (Bellevue West) can attack you at all three levels and spread you all over the field,” Kearney said. “Against a team like this, you have to carry out your assignment, maintain leverage and be ready to make a play if it comes your direction. If you make a mistake against their skilled players, it’s either a big play or six points.”
Reach the writer at 402-473-7437 or email@example.com. On Twitter @ronpowell_ljs.