Vikings ready to tackle unpredictable season

by JEREMY WEBER
For the Eagle | August 12, 2020 1:00 AM

Bigfork High School’s new head football coach Jim Benn will be looking to appreciate every moment this year as he and the Vikings look to improve on their 3-6 record from a year ago.

Benn has 10 years of head coaching experience, having spent two years leading Malta and eight in Ronan, but he admits that coaching during a pandemic is a whole new experience.

“Things are literally changing hourly as people change their minds on things, changing decisions and making new rules. We are in a spot where people don’t really know what to expect,” he said. “Our themes for this year are going to be to expect the unexpected and appreciate everything we get to do.”

After spending 2019 as the offensive coordinator and activities director at Loyola Sacred Heart in Missoula, Benn accepted a teaching position at the middle school in April to be closer to his family in Ronan and was named the head football coach last week when Patrick Munson resigned from the position after one season.

Benn, who has been an assistant for football and head track coach in Huntley Project and Corvallis, also spent eight years as head coach in Ronan, from 2008-15. His record there was 34-38; he went 11-7 in Malta.

Benn says he is excited about this year’s Vikings team, which will feature size, skill and several returning starters.

“We have a tremendous amount of size up front. They were young last year, but we are bringing back a very big offensive and defensive line. I’m really hoping that will develop into a strength for us,” he said.

Center Braedon Guce is one of three linemen in the 300 pound range for the Vikings that will be opening up running lanes for junior tailback Levi Taylor. Senior tight end Issac Bjorge will also help anchor the offense while Benn’s son, Cormac, will play in the offensive backfield and at linebacker for the Vikings.

Benn said he is also looking forward to seeing players step up when needed during the season.

“With every team I have ever been a part of, there are always some kids that rise to the occasion as needed throughout the season and I am really hoping to see that repeat here,” he said.

Practice for the upcoming season is set to begin Friday with games beginning August 28, but both will be governed by a new set of guidelines meant to help curtail the spread of COVID-19.

Benn said summer workouts have been going well and have been heavily attended, with between 30 and 40 players spending time in the weight room most days.

“The kids just want to play. They are excited about being around each other and all of the little things that a lot of people who are not around sports do not see - the camaraderie and the friendships,” he said.

The Vikings will open the season on the road August 28 as they travel to Townsend looking to avenge last season’s 20-14 loss to the Bulldogs. The Vikings home opener will come September 4 as they host Cutbank, a team Bigfork downed 12-6 in an overtime thriller in 2019.

The Vikings remain at home for their next two games as they take on Florence September 18 and celebrate Homecoming against Loyola Sacred Heart September 25.

The next two games will be on the road as the Vikings travel to Deer Lodge October 2 and Anaconda the following week.

The Vikings will celebrate Senior Night October 16 as they host Jefferson before finishing up the regular season on the road at Eureka October 26.

Benn says he is hopeful that the team will be able to finish the season without any shutdowns and that they will be grateful for every minute they get to spend on the field.

“With what is going on, our goal is going to be ‘today.’ We don’t know how long our season is going to be. There are no guarantees of anything,” he said. “Our goal is to get out and play and compete. I think we can be a playoff team if the season lasts that long and I think this group is on the cusp of doing some great things.” ■