The Class B champion Bennington football team has a saying.
“Together we win.”
The Badgers have something they call unit leaders. They are the 10 kids the coaches look to from the beginning of summer conditioning. Those players are captains in charge of leading the team. The players meet with the coaches weekly to discuss how things are going.
Bennington coach Kam Lenhart inherited the setup. The previous coaching staff created it two years prior to him taking over the team. It was something that Lenhart enjoyed and liked so he has continued rolling with it.
“This is a special group,” Lenhart said. “This is my favorite year of coaching in all aspects with it but just because of that camaraderie that these guys had for one another.”
That camaraderie is what allowed record-setting running back Dylan Mostek to fit in. He transferred into Bennington his junior year. That can be tough on any high schooler. Much less someone that is a high-profile athlete within the state coming from a rival school.
“It was definitely a little nerve-racking at first because Bennington and Norris are a little bit of rivals,” Mostek said. “The first day I came into our camp, they just brought me in like family. I could never thank them enough for that. It just means a lot because they could have just not liked me because of the school I went to but they brought me in like I was family.”
Mostek knew that the Badgers could have a special season during summer conditioning. The team didn’t take days off. He felt then the team was solid all-around with great leadership. Lenhart saw that spark at the end of the 2020 season.
“To be honest with you based on last year’s team and knowing what we had coming back we really thought that we had a team that could make a run at it all if things fell into place,” Lenhart said. “I think right off the bat, our game against Grand Island Northwest was a good showing. We have a stud at running back. Now, are we going to be able to continue that throughout the whole year? It was just making sure we stay healthy. Making sure we find other people that can step up when we need people to have a break. Those kids really stepped up as well.”
That game to start the season against Grand Island Northwest was a 45-20 win for the Badgers. It was their first win of a 13-0 perfect season. That night Mostek ran for 355 yards and five touchdowns. That was foreshadowing of what was to come in his season. Mostek ended the season breaking the single-season 11-man rushing record. He racked up 3,089 yards and 44 touchdowns.
Bennington wasn’t a one man show. A number of players were impressive throughout the season. Lenhart thinks the team got to show how many weapons they had throughout, which made it more difficult to game plan for Bennington. If a team tried to load the box against Mostek, Cayden Bluhm could beat them deep for a long pass. Another speedy wideout like Michell Andersen could make a play. If you double-team Bluhm then that’s one less player in the box to defend Mostek. Quarterback Trey Bird had weapons all around him. Bird didn’t need to do too much except take care of the football and distribute the ball.
That was key early in the season since Bird didn’t come into the year as the starting quarterback. Seth Wempen was the starter before breaking his collarbone in the first game of the season. According to Lenhart, the confidence grew for Bird all season long. He played so well that during his time as a starter. When Wempen returned from his injury the coaching staff slid Wempen into a role as a wide receiver and safety. He really changed the dynamic of the Badgers defense.
All the hard work and sacrifices paid off for Bennington. The team was rewarded with a special season that included a state championship. That meant so much to the community in Bennington who showed up in big numbers to see the Class B title game.
“I always tell the kids give everything you have and good things are going to happen,” Lenhart said. “That’s what this group did. The thing I would tell the kids every game is ‘do your job to the best of your abilities and play for one another and good things are going to happen.’ It’s awesome to see them experience what they’ve experienced. This is something that they’re never going to forget about.”
Greg is the Recruiting Analyst for Hail Varsity and has covered Husker athletics since 2013. He has always had a passion for sports while growing up in the Chicago area. As he got older and had to hang up his cleats and sneakers, he realized his passion for sports went beyond just watching and attending games. He has covered many events from the Rose Bowl to championship boxing matches. If he’s not talking sports, he’s hovering over his grill. He is married to an amazing woman, Kim, and they have a dog that barks when Greg yells at the TV during games.