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The Davenport Central football team's run game was in shambles. Coach Ben Sacco tried multiple options in the first four weeks of the season with minimal success.

Central was averaging less than 3.5 yards per carry and generated only one touchdown in defeats to Muscatine, North Scott and Pleasant Valley.

As the Blue Devils opened district play in Week 5, Sacco made a change.

His team hopped aboard the D-Train.

Senior Diontrel Wommack, who has picked up that nickname from teammates in recent weeks, became the team's featured back.

Wommack, coupled with the return of 5-foot-11 and 275-pound right guard Kiejuan Guy, has given Central a new lease on its football season.

In three games as the primary back, Wommack has rushed for 123, 204 and 228 yards in victories over Burlington, Davenport West and Cedar Rapids Washington.

"I knew at the beginning of the year, we were going to be searching to find our identity on offense," Sacco said. "We had some guys not step up in a way we thought they might, so it took us a while to find what we were looking for.

"Once we found it, it has changed the view and momentum of our team."

Wommack said his mother was responsible for getting him into football as a fifth-grader. He was a nose guard with the Youth Sports Foundation.

"I was kind of fat," he said.

As a freshman, Wommack was in Central's program but hardly played.

He was an outside linebacker and third-string running back on the sophomore team the following year.

Then last season, Wommack was stalwart on defense for the varsity squad. He had 56 tackles, 16.5 for loss, and 7.5 sacks in leading the Blue Devils to a six-win season and the playoffs.

Despite his production, Wommack admitted he needed to transform his body in the offseason.

He went from playing at 175 to 180 pounds last fall to 215 this season. He was in the weight room three or four times a week along with beefing up his food intake.

"Whatever mom was making, I was eating," Wommack said. "I might have had some fast food, too."

Wommack relied on speed last year. He has the strength to go with the quickness this season.

"I'm a lot stronger, feel way better," he said. "I can't get pushed around really being at the weight I'm at now."

He's also become more sound with his assignments and alignment. Wommack said opponents had the word "undisciplined" attached to his name on scouting reports last season.

"I was," he said. "I ran up the field a lot. Now, I fit in the gap and trust my teammates a little more."

The outside linebacker/rush end has almost 40 tackles, 15 for loss and six sacks for Central (4-3, 3-0) heading into a pivotal district game at Cedar Rapids Kennedy.

"Him adding all that weight and strength has really made him a real complete player on defense," Sacco said.

Wommack has become a workhorse on offense, too.

After the 27-7 loss to Pleasant Valley, the coaching staff had a conversation with Wommack about expanding his workload.

"They told me I have to take charge of my own destiny," he said. "At first, I didn't want to be a running back, but once I started doing it and got the hang of it, it got easier."

Wommack had 13 carries versus Burlington, 21 playing West and 32 against Washington in a game played over two days because of inclement weather.

"He's embraced playing both sides of the ball," Sacco said. "We have to get him out from time to time because he starts to wear down."

Wommack struggled walking off the turf at Brady Street Stadium last Saturday night because of fatigue. To complicate matters, Central has its shortest turnaround of the season with a Thursday night game on the road.

The two-way player is determined to be ready.

Central enters the final two weeks of the regular season tied for the Class 4A District 5 lead with Bettendorf.

Two victories assure a district championship and playoff berth. A split might be good enough to play beyond Week 9.

Central is 14th this week in the Class 4A Ratings Percentage Index, which has been implemented to determine at-large qualifiers.

"It is an all-in scenario for us in Week 8," Sacco said. "We're treating this like a must-win for us to have a chance at extra football."

Wommack believes the Blue Devils are hitting their stride at the opportune time with the most demanding stretch of their schedule here.

"We're way better than we were at the beginning of the year," he said. "We're more focused, more disciplined, a lot stronger.

"Guys are starting to take this a lot more seriously."

Wommack is a major reason for that.

Levon Bellemy had been viewed as the star of Central's senior class growing up, but he moved out of state before the season. It required the Blue Devils to find a new go-to guy.

"Diontrel was that guy," Sacco said. "Once we got him in the right role and gave him the right opportunities, he's made everything out of it."

Now, the Blue Devils are going to ride the D-Train for as long as the season lasts.

"He's definitely more dedicated to the little things that it takes of being a leader with practice, film study and staying out of trouble," Sacco said. "He's given our team a chance to make the playoffs."


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.