Male Area Athlete of the Week: LeBlanc paces Pioneers rushing attack in win
Pierz senior earns area athlete of the week.
Jacob LeBlanc started and finished Pierz’s win over Montevideo last week.
The senior running back scored the game’s first touchdown for the Pioneers on their second play from scrimmage. LeBlanc ran 60 yards to give Pierz a 7-0 lead 46 seconds in.
“Starting off on a good note definitely gets the game going in the way you want and boosts our confidence,” LeBlanc said.
With 3:32 left and Pierz up 28-21, LeBlanc rushed for a 52-yard touchdown to put the game away for the Pioneers and move them to 3-0.
“It’s always nice to break one loose and I did it twice,” he said.
LeBlanc totaled 224 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries in Pierz’s win. He also recorded 11 tackles.
“He really took his game to another level on Friday night,” Pierz head coach Dan Saehr said. “He ran very hard and very well the first two games, I just think he had another gear on Friday night. He’d be the first to tell you the linemen opened up some holes and got him to the second level and he took it from there.”
Saehr was right as LeBlanc was quick to thank his offensive line.
“The blocks were setting up nicely,” he said. “We had a good game plan coming in and the plays were just working out.”
With two touchdown runs of over 50 yards, LeBlanc got a chance to show off his speed.
“On the first one, the offensive line did a nice job of picking up a blitzer and getting him to the second level and he took it from there,” Saehr said. “He outran the secondary and on his second touchdown run we called a timeout and coach (Dave) Rocheleau dialed up a play and he took it to the house.”
For the season, LeBlanc leads the Pioneers in rushing with 358 yards and three touchdowns on 41 carries.
“It’s confidence,” Saehr said. “He played for us last year as a junior and had a good year. It’s his senior year and experience is such a crazy thing because you can tell that they play faster. I know coaches stress hitting the hole and hitting the hole hard and he does. It allows him to get to the second level and make big runs.”
As a junior last season, LeBlanc rushed for 534 yards and six touchdowns on 103 carries. He also recorded 42 total tackles and nine pass breakups as a linebacker. He was also named All-Section 6-3A and Dispatch All-Area second team.
“Getting varsity time last year really helps a lot with all sorts of things and gives me confidence,” LeBlanc said. “I’ve improved at coming downhill and hitting holes harder.”
Saehr said LeBlanc starts at linebacker and plays special teams, so he rarely sees the sidelines.
“Every kid on our defense is important,” Saehr said. “We put our linebackers in some big-time positions to make some tackles and he made the switch from secondary to linebacker at the end of last year. He’s a very good tackler and is quick at that position which has allowed him to make plays in the backfield.”
LeBlanc said his mentality on the defensive end is reading the opponent.
“You just have to play fast and be physical,” he said.
The Pioneers’ backfield has a three-headed monster with LeBlanc, Reese Young and Kirby Fischer all returners from last year. Saehr said that depth makes it harder for defenses to prepare for them.
“It allows us to be versatile,” Saehr said. “We try to use three to four to sometimes, even five running backs at times. Part of it is to keep kids fresh and each one brings a different skill set and the biggest thing is we have confidence in all our backs.”
LeBlanc added: “It works out to have three solid running backs because you don’t have to just give the ball to one person. It keeps the defense guessing.”
LeBlanc is a three-sport athlete at Pierz and Saehr said he’s more of a quiet leader.
“He’s a leader by example and he’s one of our captains and has become more vocal as a senior,” Saehr said. “He’s really blossomed into a very nice football player. He’s a very coachable kid and he’s always nodding his head and doesn’t complain. He’ll do whatever is asked and he plays very hard.”
LeBlanc added: “I’m not super vocal as a captain, but I try to lead the team by example and pick everyone up and work hard.”
Other notable performances:
Football: Ethan Loge, Pine River-Backus, scored three touchdowns.
Irvin Tulenchik, Pine River-Backus, threw for three touchdowns.
Hollister Heinz, Verndale, rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries.
Grant Loge, Pequot Lakes, threw four touchdown passes.
Cross-Country: Joe Ringhand, Crosby-Ironton, won the Pine River-Backus meet in 19:25.0.
Position: Running back
Highlights: He rushed for 224 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries and 11 tackles.