Take one look at South Ridge's Joe Janke, and you think: "Now there's a football player that knows his way around the weight room."
But the senior didn't start lifting weights until this past summer. No, his method for building muscle was born of necessity. Janke lives on a farm in Brookston.
"He's been hauling firewood and throwing hay bales since he was 4," said his father, Adam Janke, a South Ridge assistant.
It shows, both in the younger Janke's demeanor and his build. He's a no-nonsense, get-to-the-point kind of guy. Which is also how the 5-foot-10, 190-pounder operates on the football field. According to Minnesota Football Hub, Janke ended the regular season as the state's leading rusher, with 1,736 yards. He added to that total in a big way during a Section 5 Nine-Man semifinal win over Floodwood on Saturday in Culver, springing for 280 yards and five touchdowns on 25 carries.
Despite those statistics - and the top-seeded Panthers' unblemished record entering Friday's section final against Cromwell-Wright - Janke doesn't boast. He just gets the job done. Tending to the family's cows and chickens, he learned all about an honest day's work.
"He's expected to do things at home and get things done at home, and that transfers over to his football career," South Ridge coach Brent Johnson said from practice Wednesday afternoon at windy Esko.
Janke revealed precisely his team-first mentality when asked if he expected to produce the kinds of numbers he's accumulated this fall, which include an 8.5-yards-per-attempt average and 25 total TDs.
"I knew we were capable of it," he said, emphasizing the importance of his experienced offensive line.
The Panthers (9-0) and second-seeded Cardinals (10-0) meet at approximately 7:15 p.m. Friday in Esko, or shortly after the Section 7 title game between Cook County and Mountain Iron-Buhl.
In his fourth season as a starter, Janke also ranks second on South Ridge's defense with 57 tackles. Offensively, though, is where he does his best work. A patient runner who lets his linemen open up holes before picking his path, Janke also is fully capable of absorbing contact and powering through it.
Credit for that, perhaps, resides in all those 50-pound hay bales Janke has heaved onto trailers and the firewood he's lugged.
"He's your typical farm boy," Johnson said. "He's stocky and his center of gravity is real low. You watch him run, and he stays upright. He's sturdy."
The coach noted Janke's coachability, which sets the tone for the Panthers. If the 2,000-yard rusher and star senior can take blunt feedback and constructive criticism, well, so can everyone else. Janke is a quiet, humble leader, Johnson said. He doesn't bark at his teammates, but when he talks, they listen.
Ditto for Johnson. If Janke suggests an offensive play, there's a good chance it's going to be called. The owner of a 3.97 grade-point average, who is leaning toward studying structural engineering, Janke boasts a high football IQ.
A win Friday would allow Janke to match his brother, Drew, who was a prolific junior wide receiver for South Ridge's 2012 team that reached the state tournament, advancing to the semifinals. Those Panthers were quarterbacked by Janke's cousin, Kody Karppinen. It remains the lone trip to state for the young program that debuted in 2011 following St. Louis County school consolidation.
Drew Janke totaled 74 receptions as a senior in 2013, when he was a second-team All-State selection. While Joe Janke carries much of South Ridge's offensive load - he even kicked a 30-yard field goal during Saturday's semifinal - don't expect him to catch many passes.
That was his brother's specialty.
"We have completely different builds," he said. "He's tall and lanky and I'm short and stocky."
For his prep career, Janke is up to 5,219 yards on the ground.