KIMBALL, Minn. -- It’s a town of less than a thousand. A place where corn rows and dirt roads are a way of life; just like football.
“Regardless of our record, we’ve had really good crowds the last couple of years,” senior running back Payton Schiefelbein said.
The last couple of years have been a challenge for the Kimball Area Cubs, both on the field and off it.
“When you go to play a team, they look at you as a win,” senior wide receiver Hayden Gagnon said.
“That’s a lot of burden coming into senior year,” Schiefelbein said. “If I leave without a win, what am I going to leave behind?”
Throughout their high school career, Kimball’s senior class had never won a game. In fact, their losing streak of 42 in a row was the second-longest in the country.
“If I had an answer for you right now, how am I going to fix 0-42, I wouldn’t be the head coach at Kimball,” head coach John Benson said. “I’d probably be in purple with a horn on my hat.”
Enter John Benson, a former stand-out quarterback at Becker, who at just 25 years old is one of the state’s youngest coaches. Kimball was his first crack at being in charge.
“I love to take that challenge,” Benson said.
While Benson might be younger than your average high school football coach, there’s nothing average about his background.
“We heard about his grandpa, John Gagliardi,” Gagnon said.
Yeah, that John Gagliardi. The legendary leader of St. John’s, who retired in 2012 as college football’s winningest coach.
“First thing when I saw him on Saturday morning, he said, ‘You have 488 (wins) to go to catch me,’” Benson said.
That’s because under Benson’s guidance, the Kimball curse has been lifted.
“The scoreboard stayed on all weekend,” Gagnon said. “Whenever anyone would drive by they would see the score.”
That’s right. The infamous losing streak was finally snapped with a 31-16 win over then undefeated Upsala/Swanville Area.
“I shed a lot of tears,” Schiefelbein said. “A lot of my teammates shed tears before the game was even over. This next week, everybody you see congratulated us and said, ‘That’s so amazing.’”
An amazing feeling for these players, this community and their coach, who hopes it’s only just the beginning.
“We sure showed everyone we’ve come a long way,” Benson said. “It makes a coach proud.”