Hales Corners - If the 2012 football season had gone according to new head coach Jeff Wallack's original plan, Sam Mentkowski would have had a much different year.
Wallack entered the season intending to establish the running game first and slow down the Falcons' frenetic aerial show of recent years.
That scheme lasted less than one game.
"We were running the wing-T (offense) in our opener against New Berlin Eisenhower and were down two touchdowns in the second half," Mentkowski recalled. "We went to 'cinco,' our five-wide receiver package, and we scored a touchdown right away. We just kept doing it after that."
The Falcons won the game, 36-28.
Mentkowski said Whitnall tried to return to the running game on several occasions but never found sustained success, so the team went back to the pass.
That resulted in a record-breaking season for Mentkowski at wideout. The senior rolled up 72 catches for 1,008 yards, an average of 14 per reception, and 12 touchdowns as the Falcons shared the Woodland Conference East Division crown at 5-3.
Mentkowski specialized in the big play. Playing defensive back, he capped a victory over Greenfield with a 96-yard interception return for a score, and against Cudahy, he hauled in two touchdown passes, returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown and broke up a potential game-tying two-point conversion pass.
For his explosive performance, Mentkowski is a receiver on the 2012 NOW Newspapers All-Suburban Team.
"Sam is one of the most dominating receivers in the area," Wallack said. "He shattered every receiving record in Whitnall history and led us to our first conference title in 12 years."
He also helped senior quarterback Zach Sutton put up some impressive numbers.
Sutton, who was high honorable mention at quarterback on the NOW squad, completed 196 passes for 2,406 yards and 22 scores.
Crediting teammate, coach
One year ago, playing alongside the graduated Stephen Pelkofer at receiver, Mentkowski made 45 catches for 690 yards and five touchdowns. He said he benefitted from the talented Pelkofer.
"Stephen said he had learned a lot from Joel (Stave, the former Whitnall quarterback who started for the Wisconsin Badgers earlier this season), and then he taught me as we worked together last year," Mentkowski said.
He added he thought Wallack did a nice job in his first year as coach, especially in building interest in the program.
"We didn't mess around," Mentkowski said. "We had workouts right after spring break, and about 60 kids showed up. I really liked what he did."
Mentkowski, who is currently playing basketball for the Falcons, has no set college plans yet. He is looking at schools such as Winona State, St. Cloud State, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, UW-Eau Claire, Wisconsin Lutheran and Carthage College.
Whichever coach eventually gets his services would be well-advised to give some extra thought to passing schemes.