Beefed-up backfield

Brady Lampert had a strong first year as the Minot High School starting running back. He scored 10 touchdowns and led the team in rushing yards with 1,063.

Lampert described his junior campaign as his best in football, but at about 170 pounds he felt the necessary strength for an every-down back wasn’t there. He beefed up to 215 pounds in the offseason and looks as shifty and as quick as last year.

“Last year, right away I kind of got pushed around and I wasn’t really used to that,” Lampert said. “I figured with extra weight, I should weigh at least as much as linebackers now and be able to put some hits on them.”

Lampert leads a stable of versatile options for the MHS running game. Senior fullback Kolton Larson returns to his spot as a bruising runner and punishing blocker after missing the majority of the 2012 season with a season-ending foot injury. Larson, a two-time all-state selection at linebacker, was a first-team West Region pick at running back as a sophomore.

Lampert will receive help from a deep list of backs, including junior Karter Gorney – this year’s 100-meter dash state champion. Junior Zach Danelson stepped in for Larson last year and provides the Magicians with a true fullback, MHS coach Barry Holmen said.

“We have to share the load and distribute and keep people fresh,” Holmen said. “A fresh Brady, and a fresh Karter, and a fresh Kolton and a fresh (Josh) Pizzo – that dictates into more trouble for our opponent.”

With the aid of a protein supplement for about five months and tireless work in the weight room, Lampert morphed into a more formidable player at 5-foot-11.

“He’s worked hard for an entire year,” Holmen said. “As soon as football was done, he decided he was gonna train for this season. I just think durability should be good. Adding some extra muscle mass certainly should allow him to take a few more hits each game. He played offense and defense last year and he was worn out at the end of the game. We certainly need him on both sides of the ball, but we also have some other weapons.”

Senior quarterback Alex Yanosko is one of the top weapons. Yanosko was second on the team in rushing yards with 1,026 and first with 12 touchdowns.

Larson – 6-foot-2, 202 pounds – was especially successful in 2011, his last full season. With a much bigger offensive line, he helped the Magicians average more than nine yards per carry as the primary rusher on zone blocking plays. Regardless of the size and experience on this year’s line, Larson is expected to gain crucial yards.

“Certainly, factors are different up front. … But yes, (Larson) has a knack for finding the hole and then it’s very rare when he doesn’t finish forward,” Holmen said. “He’ll fall forward and get you the extra yard or two. It’s rare when he would get tackled and knocked backward.”

MHS may spend considerable time playing out of the shotgun, but the blocking experience of Larson and Danelson will also be seen on plays starting under center. Traps, counters and other plays will allow the lead blockers to go one-on-one with linebackers in hopes of opening big lanes.

“We didn’t have (Larson) last year, so we had to have sophomores step up and block and it was difficult at times,” Lampert said, “but now that Kolton’s back it’s one thing I’m looking forward to right away and that’s gonna really help.”

A big year for Lampert, who also plays outside linebacker, could bring more interest from colleges. He made visits to University of North Dakota and Minot State, but wants to remain patient through the recruiting process.

Senior Josh Pizzo is another speedy option and juniors Jake Bloms, Braden Lach, Alex Mack and D.J. Womack could also see time at running back.

Gorney may be the most dangerous of the juniors because of his speed. He was still a raw talent in football last year, but has added muscle and confidence.

“He wasn’t ready last year, even though he was a backup guy learning,” Holmen said. “We’re real pleased with his progress and just (his) amazing speed factor. He just brings something special that the others just don’t.”

MHS begins full-contact practice this morning. The Magicians will scrimmage other area teams on Tuesday and open the season at home against West Fargo on Aug. 30.

Tim Chapman covers Minot High School athletics. Follow him on Twitter @chapmatp.