Sam Strang is one of the most disruptive pass rushers in the Quad-Cities.

Davenport Central football coach Ben Sacco wants to keep it that way.

But when Strang was plugged into the backfield last Friday night against Muscatine and was popping off 7- and 8-yard runs consistently, it was difficult for Sacco to go away from him.

Strang finished with 21 carries for 147 yards and two touchdowns, including the winning score with less than a minute remaining.

"We got great big eyes, got excited and he probably was the reason we won the game," Sacco said, "but we need to find that happy medium where he's effective on both sides of the ball.

"While it is nice to have Sam carry the ball, we all know he's our man on the defensive side of the ball. We need to make sure he still stays that man."

Overshadowed by his offense, the 6-foot-3 and 222-pound Strang still managed to record 7.5 tackles, four for loss.

The heavy workload didn't faze Strang. Like most high school players, Strang woke up Saturday morning and had some aches and pains.

By Monday afternoon, he was preparing for the next challenge — a Friday night home game against Class 3A fourth-ranked North Scott.

Sacco realizes a healthy Strang is a must for Central to have long-term success this season.

"One of our points of emphasis is to not wear him out," Sacco said.

Strang became enamored with football in the fifth grade. His father, Jason, was a defensive end and fullback at St. Ambrose.

"I don't know where I'd be without football," Strang said. "This sport has taught me so much about responsibility, so much about friendship, so much about trusting one another and so much about doing well in school.

"I would do anything for the sport."

Sacco knew Strang had a chance to be a difference-maker in his program during his freshman season. Strang hasn't disappointed.

A once scrawny freshman has developed into a chiseled force.

Coming off a junior season in which he had 16.5 tackles for loss (eight sacks), Strang has added more than 40 pounds to his frame in the past four years.

He can squat 500 pounds.

"The weight room has been such a game-changer for me," Strang said. "It has really helped me step up my game a lot more."

Sacco said Strang epitomizes what he wants in his program, particularly in the weight room.

"He never misses a weight room session, and when he's in there, he's not taking sets off or reps off," Sacco noted. "He's pushing himself.

"That's the biggest gap we have to close between some of the other schools in the area. The more kids you have like Sam Strang on your team, the more you're closing gaps."

There have been setbacks along the way.

Strang tore the labrum in his left shoulder last season against Cedar Rapids Kennedy. He missed the regular-season finale versus Bettendorf and had surgery in November.

A little more than three months later, he was running track and field.

"All I was thinking about when I was going through the recovery was my senior season and doing this," Strang said. "I want to prove I'm the best defensive player in the Q-C."

He possesses size, speed and strength.

"You put all three of those things together, it makes it pretty tough when he can run people down or get off guys with his physical attributes," Sacco said.

Strang already has received some college interest. South Dakota, Minnesota State-Mankato, Winona State, Quincy University, Augustana University and NAIA power Grand View are among the schools to offer.

"I'm very fortunate to get the offers I have, but I've got a lot more motivation from having some schools not offer me," he said.

Strang was a strongside defensive end last year. The Blue Devils have turned him into more of a hybrid this year, playing him at outside linebacker and defensive end.

The one-on-one battles, either with an offensive lineman or matched up with a skilled player in space, are what he relishes.

"It is like a chess match," Strang said. "I know football is a team sport, but when you're pass rushing, it is almost like an individual sport.

"There is no better feeling for a defensive player than coming from the blindside and tackling the quarterback or getting past an offensive lineman."

That versatility makes Strang an intriguing college prospect. Depending on where he lands, he could play linebacker, rush end or a school could add to his frame and possibly use him as a defensive lineman.

Strang will wait to make a decision until the season is over. He's focused on getting Central back into the playoffs after missing out in 2018.

"Last week was really important and a confidence builder for us," Strang said. "A lot of teams don't give us the respect for who we are, but we have an unbelievable group.

"Everyone is buying into what we want to be, and that's a playoff team again."

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Sports Editor

Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.