Football

West Branch's Luke Lenoch leaning toward William Penn offer

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Luke Lenoch reached his goal in the lone McDonald’s of West Branch, Ia.

That’s where, on the first day of winter break, Lenoch, his parents and West Branch football coach Butch Pedersen sat as William Penn offensive coordinator Charles Hopkins offered Lenoch a scholarship to play running back for the Statesmen.

West Branch running back Luke Lenoch finds an opening in the Regina defense late in the fourth quarter at Regina High School Friday, October 28, 2016.

West Branch running back Luke Lenoch finds an opening in the Regina defense late in the fourth quarter at Regina High School Friday, October 28, 2016.

About three weeks have passed since then, and Lenoch, a 5-foot-9 tank of a tailback most known for his constantly churning legs, still can’t believe it: He’s earned an athletic scholarship.

“I still don’t even really know how to express it or anything like that,” he said. “But it was something, toward the end of the year, nobody had really come and done anything, so I was just kind of accepting … ‘You know, I might go play somewhere, but I don’t know if I’ll go on athletic scholarship.’ And I was just starting to accept that — it didn’t really bother me. And then, when this happened, it was just kind of, like, ‘Wow.’ It was kind of surreal.”

West Branch running back Luke Lenoch: The slow kid who became fast

William Penn, a private liberal arts school in Oskaloosa, plays in Division I of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, or NAIA, which many compare to the NCAA’s Division II.

Lenoch said he still has interest from NCAA Division III schools, including Coe, Luther, Simpson and Loras. He said he’s also considering Grand View, an NAIA school in Des Moines that has expressed interest in extending an offer.

He’s still weighing all his options, and he’d like to commit before signing day, on Feb. 1. But right now, the West Branch senior is leaning toward William Penn.

“They’re young, they seem to be pretty talented and my position, they said, is open,” Lenoch said. “(The coach) said I have a good chance of starting as a freshman, which, obviously, playing time isn’t the most important thing, freshman year, but it’s nice to hear that. And they got new facilities, and the fact that it’s my first offer and they’re the first people that have come out and offered me because they thought I was a good football player — it means a lot. So they’re in the top right now.”

The Statesmen finished at 7-4 last season, ranked 24th in the NAIA’s top 25. They boasted the No. 2 rushing offense in NAIA D-I, which accounted for 87 percent of its offense (3,228 rushing yards, 473 passing yards). They had eight players with at least 100 yards on the ground last year, and they return their top two rushers in Amos Johnson and Nate Van Veldhuizen.

It seems they’re a good fit for Lenoch, who comes from a Bears offense that ran the ball on 72 percent of its offensive plays last year.

Lenoch rushed for 1,838 yards and 30 touchdowns and led West Branch to the first round of the state football playoffs. He also earned a spot on the Des Moines Register’s All-Iowa Class 1A team.

With 6,022 total rushing yards, he’s West Branch’s all-time rushing leader. In second place is Cade Jones, who totaled 4,420 after the 2012 season.

“If the kid runs for that many yards in high school, he’s doing something right,” said Allen Trieu, Scout.com’s Midwest football recruiting manager and a big fan of Lenoch. “(He’s) not a kid that I think would ever blow the doors off of a 40-yard dash, but I think you like guys who don’t just outrun everybody. He shows a lot of ability to run between the tackles, he runs tough, fights for extra yards, stays on his feet.

“A lot of other things have to come into play there than just, ‘We’re going to pitch it to this guy and he’s going to sprint around the end every time.’ So I think that he’s a really, really good back.”

Trieu likes the NAIA for Lenoch.

“I think it’s a good level of football, and any time you have an opportunity to play anywhere, I think kids get a little too hung up on that label of ‘D-I’,” he said. “And the fact of the matter is, we see it year after year: There’s a lot of great high school players that will play D-II and NAIA. And not that this is necessarily the final goal for a kid like that, but there’s been guys that have made it out of that level to go on and have some stints in the NFL.”

William Penn plays in the Heart of America Athletic Conference against schools in Missouri, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska. Mount Mercy in Cedar Rapids, Grand View in Des Moines and Clarke in Dubuque are all members.

Matthew Bain covers preps, recruiting and the Hawkeyes for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Des Moines Register and HawkCentral. Contact him at mbain@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.

Football

West Branch's Luke Lenoch leaning toward William Penn offer

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Luke Lenoch reached his goal in the lone McDonald’s of West Branch, Ia.

That’s where, on the first day of winter break, Lenoch, his parents and West Branch football coach Butch Pedersen sat as William Penn offensive coordinator Charles Hopkins offered Lenoch a scholarship to play running back for the Statesmen.

West Branch running back Luke Lenoch finds an opening in the Regina defense late in the fourth quarter at Regina High School Friday, October 28, 2016.

West Branch running back Luke Lenoch finds an opening in the Regina defense late in the fourth quarter at Regina High School Friday, October 28, 2016.

About three weeks have passed since then, and Lenoch, a 5-foot-9 tank of a tailback most known for his constantly churning legs, still can’t believe it: He’s earned an athletic scholarship.

“I still don’t even really know how to express it or anything like that,” he said. “But it was something, toward the end of the year, nobody had really come and done anything, so I was just kind of accepting … ‘You know, I might go play somewhere, but I don’t know if I’ll go on athletic scholarship.’ And I was just starting to accept that — it didn’t really bother me. And then, when this happened, it was just kind of, like, ‘Wow.’ It was kind of surreal.”

West Branch running back Luke Lenoch: The slow kid who became fast

William Penn, a private liberal arts school in Oskaloosa, plays in Division I of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, or NAIA, which many compare to the NCAA’s Division II.

Lenoch said he still has interest from NCAA Division III schools, including Coe, Luther, Simpson and Loras. He said he’s also considering Grand View, an NAIA school in Des Moines that has expressed interest in extending an offer.

He’s still weighing all his options, and he’d like to commit before signing day, on Feb. 1. But right now, the West Branch senior is leaning toward William Penn.

“They’re young, they seem to be pretty talented and my position, they said, is open,” Lenoch said. “(The coach) said I have a good chance of starting as a freshman, which, obviously, playing time isn’t the most important thing, freshman year, but it’s nice to hear that. And they got new facilities, and the fact that it’s my first offer and they’re the first people that have come out and offered me because they thought I was a good football player — it means a lot. So they’re in the top right now.”

The Statesmen finished at 7-4 last season, ranked 24th in the NAIA’s top 25. They boasted the No. 2 rushing offense in NAIA D-I, which accounted for 87 percent of its offense (3,228 rushing yards, 473 passing yards). They had eight players with at least 100 yards on the ground last year, and they return their top two rushers in Amos Johnson and Nate Van Veldhuizen.

It seems they’re a good fit for Lenoch, who comes from a Bears offense that ran the ball on 72 percent of its offensive plays last year.

Lenoch rushed for 1,838 yards and 30 touchdowns and led West Branch to the first round of the state football playoffs. He also earned a spot on the Des Moines Register’s All-Iowa Class 1A team.

With 6,022 total rushing yards, he’s West Branch’s all-time rushing leader. In second place is Cade Jones, who totaled 4,420 after the 2012 season.

“If the kid runs for that many yards in high school, he’s doing something right,” said Allen Trieu, Scout.com’s Midwest football recruiting manager and a big fan of Lenoch. “(He’s) not a kid that I think would ever blow the doors off of a 40-yard dash, but I think you like guys who don’t just outrun everybody. He shows a lot of ability to run between the tackles, he runs tough, fights for extra yards, stays on his feet.

“A lot of other things have to come into play there than just, ‘We’re going to pitch it to this guy and he’s going to sprint around the end every time.’ So I think that he’s a really, really good back.”

Trieu likes the NAIA for Lenoch.

“I think it’s a good level of football, and any time you have an opportunity to play anywhere, I think kids get a little too hung up on that label of ‘D-I’,” he said. “And the fact of the matter is, we see it year after year: There’s a lot of great high school players that will play D-II and NAIA. And not that this is necessarily the final goal for a kid like that, but there’s been guys that have made it out of that level to go on and have some stints in the NFL.”

William Penn plays in the Heart of America Athletic Conference against schools in Missouri, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska. Mount Mercy in Cedar Rapids, Grand View in Des Moines and Clarke in Dubuque are all members.

Matthew Bain covers preps, recruiting and the Hawkeyes for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Des Moines Register and HawkCentral. Contact him at mbain@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.