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Dike-New Hartford's Trent Johnson, left, tries to get past Denver's Eli Barrett in the first half of last Friday's matchup in Denver.

DIKE -- Sometimes, one play can epitomize the traits that make an athlete special.

Encapsulated within a pivotal, 22-yard touchdown run during Friday's 23-12 win at South Hardin was a rare combination of balance, strength, speed, determination and heart that has placed Iowa's career rushing yardage record within the reach of Dike-New Hartford running back Trent Johnson.

"He's just got this drive and determination to be the best," D-NH veteran head coach Don Betts said. "He had a run the other night in our game -- I've seen a lot of great runs from him over the years ... This might have been the best one he's ever had for a touchdown.

"He ran over, through, around and carried people into the end zone. All determination. Once he got through the line of scrimmage, he just was not going to be denied."

A three-time state wrestling placewinner, Johnson credits his winter sport as a factor that helped him record that 75th career touchdown -- tied for 25th on Iowa's all-time list.

"I just ran hard," said Johnson, who was defeated by four-time champion Carter Happel of Lisbon in last year's state wrestling final. "That's the wrestling part of me -- you don't ever want to get taken down on your feet."

While a 5-foot-6, 170-pound frame has Johnson eyeing wrestling at the collegiate level, he has now joined an exclusive club of high school running backs. The recent 276-yard game against South Hardin allowed Johnson to become Iowa's 12th player to surpass 6,000 career rushing yards -- reaching his current total of 6,070 in three seasons after running for 13 yards in a reserve role as a freshman.

If Dike-New Hartford (4-2, 4-0 district) reaches the second round of the playoffs, Johnson would have to average 214.2 yards a game to match the record of 7,142 set by North Mahaska's Levi Ferguson in 2005. He's averaging 223 yards through six games.

"It's an amazing accomplishment where he's at now and knowing he's got more games to play," Betts said. "It's one of those things when people look back on it down the road, they're going to shake their head and go, 'Wow.'"

Also a successful baseball player, Johnson says he's found more enjoyment competing alongside his friends in every sport as opposed to specializing.

"With football season, I'm strictly football," he said. "When it's wrestling season, it's strictly wrestling. Especially senior year, me and my classmates want to make it as far as we can. For us to do that, we've just got to focus on football."

Betts appreciates that dedication, pointing out, "Wrestling is his first love and that's fine. A lot of kids have one sport they prefer over the other. I've just always liked the fact that when it's time for football, he gives everything he's got to football, just like he gives to wrestling when it's wrestling season."

Character is one trait Betts can trace to Johnson's family.

"What I enjoy more than anything is what a great kid he is," Betts said. "He comes from a great family and he's just a great kid. To me, that means as much as anything."

The youngest of three brothers, Johnson is also the smallest. His siblings, Tanner and Trevor, were all-state linemen for Betts. Trent can recall  playing a variation of football on the family trampoline that never seemed to end well.

"They kind of beat the crap out of me as a kid," Johnson laughed. "That's where I think I get my toughness from. We'd be jumping on the trampoline and playing football them two versus me. My parents would just say if you're going to cry, you can't play. I always took a deep breath and toughed it out."

Johnson says he's also learned plenty about being a role-model and leader from his parents and brothers.

His dad, Curt, often draws on the experience he had as a track coach and emphasizes maintaining a positive mentality. His mom, Leah, stresses the importance of sportsmanship.

"During wrestling, you see where a kid is kicking or throwing his headgear, or throwing a fit on the mat," Johnson said. "My mom always looks over to me and says, 'You wouldn't be wrestling if you did that.' She's always constantly reminding me about sportsmanship, acting with class and doing the right thing."

As Johnson climbs the state rushing chart, he continues to emphasize that this isn't a solo journey.

"It'll be kind of cool to look back on (the career stats), but in the end it's not me," Johnson said. "It's the linemen I've had, the receivers I've had blocking downfield, the quarterbacks that can throw the ball to open up our running game.

"It's my name next to those numbers, but I feel it should be everyone's."

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Sports Reporter

Sports reporter for The Courier

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