GIBSON CITY — Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley High School’s run of running backs has been in full stride for a while now.
From Brandon Luttrell, Casey Cline and Michael Romshek to Nick Meunier and Mitch McNutt, the Falcons have had standout ball carriers who value the weight room and proper nutrition.
The current torch bearer is senior Jared Trantina, a fullback on last year’s Class 2A state championship team who has stepped into the star tailback role.
Carrying the football at GCMS comes with a responsibility to uphold tradition. Trantina has embraced it while running for 1,431 yards and 31 touchdowns for his 11-0 team.
The numbers are impressive considering last week’s 31-7 Class 2A second-round playoff win over Chicago Hope Academy was the first time all season the Falcons’ regulars played a full game. The rest were blowouts by halftime and reserves played the second halves.
“The time he’s put in the weight room, the way he watches his diet … he’s worked for this,” GCMS coach Mike Allen said of Trantina. “He’s waited patiently and now it’s his turn. He’s making the most of it.”
That’s not to say the 5-foot-8, 200-pound Trantina was a non-factor last season.
He rushed for 960 yards and 15 touchdowns to complement a monster season by McNutt, the Pantagraph Player of the Year. Trantina routinely helped clear a path for McNutt.
“Last year I really took pride in being the fullback and blocking … not getting as many carries,” Trantina said. “We won a state championship, so I was totally fine with that.”
Trantina was a big part of a 38-32 title-game win over Maroa-Forsyth, rushing for 132 yards on 14 carries. Included were key 26- and 49-yard runs. He also was a first-team all-Heart of Illinois Conference pick at linebacker.
Trantina didn’t rest on any of that. He dived into his weight training and dietary routine shortly after the championship celebrations ended.
“When you work so hard, you step on the field and it just gives you that extra confidence knowing the players across from you haven’t worked as hard as you,” Trantina said.
"I try to stay away from a lot of sugar, eat a lot of high-protein meals and then get a good lift in."
Trantina relishes his new high-profile role, but stressed, “It’s a total team effort.”
An offensive line of guards Jordan Lee, Joe Allen and Garrett Wright, tackles Josh Bleich and Hayden Workman, center Keegan Kutemeier and tight end Bryce Barnes has given Trantina room to run and senior quarterback Nathan Garard time to throw.
It has led to a 49.9 points per game scoring average while the Falcons’ defense has allowed only 3.4.
“The line has been doing amazing,” Trantina said. “We lost quite a bit from last year so we really didn’t know how we were going to be. The guys really stepped up and they’re doing outstanding. I could not thank them enough.”
A key man has been Kutemeier, a 5-9, 230-pound junior who took over for three-year starter Alex Rosenbaum.
“That was a critical piece of our puzzle,” Mike Allen said. “Keegan was one of the biggest roles we had to fill and he’s done a phenomenal job jumping in at center.”
Next up for top-seeded GCMS is a 6 p.m. quarterfinal game Saturday against No. 5 seed Sterling Newman (10-1) at Sterling High School.
GCMS carries a 25-game win streak into the contest, including a 14-8 semifinal win over Newman last year at Gibson City.
Trantina said the Falcons understand they have “a huge target on our back.”
They’re OK with that.
“Pressure is kind of a privilege,” he said. “I believe it elevates us to play better.”