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Warriors Athlete of Week: Brainerd’s Bentho bowling over opposing defenses

Damien Bentho has been the offensive catalyst for the Brainerd Warriors football team.

Damien Bentho
Brainerd Warrior running back Damien Bentho prepares to catch the ball Monday, Sept. 12, 2022, at practice.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD -- Balance.

Damien Bentho has it. It’s likely a product of working in the wrestling room for a number of years, but that balance has been on display on the football field.

The senior running back for the Brainerd Warriors football team scored his third touchdown of the season with 2:34 remaining in a 27-10 victory over Moorhead Friday, Sept. 9

It capped off a 184-yard rushing performance from the back who also caught one pass for 2 yards.

“I really like carrying the ball,” Bentho said. “I really like being out there with the boys. At the same time, I really do love blocking. I’ve been working really hard with (assistant coach John) Stumpf and I’ve learned to like it a lot more, too.”

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The 5-foot-9, 190-pound back didn’t have to do much blocking against Moorhead as his offensive line paved the way. Bentho couldn’t say enough about the five linemen and tight ends who opened the door to his big game.

“They are really freaking big,” Bentho said. “Honestly, I couldn’t miss the holes they were making. Anyone could have run through those big, old holes they were creating. I saw them do it in Week One and so they didn’t really surprise me (against Moorhead). We had a tough Week Two game, but I knew they would bounce back and they did.”

Bentho opened the season rushing for 229 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries against Coon Rapids. Bentho’s TD runs covered 70 and 4 yards to hand Brainerd a 12-0 halftime lead in the Week Zero matchup.

He also caught two passes for 24 yards.

“What makes Damien a good back is he is very patient within our system,” Warriors head coach Jason Freed said. “You need to be patient and find the hole and when he finds it he shows a burst and he’s really hard to take down.

“He’s kind of a unique running back for us. We’ve had a lot of really good running backs in our history and I think Damien is a blend of power and patience. Honestly, I think his wrestling skills play a big role. It provides a different aspect of balance. Wrestlers have a low center of gravity and he uses that to his advantage and with that body awareness and balance he’s able to stay standing. With his stature, he’s strong and built well. He’s got a good blend of speed, athleticism and balance.”

The senior led the Warriors with 74 yards on 19 carries in a loss to Andover in Branerd’s second game of the season. He added one catch for 6 yards.

Being a captain was something that I really wanted since sixth grade.
Damien Bentho

Freed said Bentho has been a complement to what Brainerd is trying to do offensively. This is Freed’s third season as head coach and it’s the third season of Brainerd’s offense. Bentho has had three years to learn what the Warriors are trying to do to move the ball.

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Bentho is also versatile. Freed hopes to see Bentho more involved in the passing game as the season progresses.

“That really is exciting to me because it opens up more things to showcase my skills,” Bentho said. “It opens things up for our wide receivers as well because they’ll get the ball more out of it, too. It’s going to be really exciting now that they’ll let me catch the ball more.”

As a junior, Bentho was second on the Warriors with 324 yards and a touchdown on 91 carries.

“I just came in, hoping to have a really good senior year,” Bentho said. “I wanted to try to make sure I averaged at least 125 yards every game. I just wanted to rush as hard as I could and prove to myself I’m the running back I know I am.”

Said Freed about Bentho’s offseason: “Damien really set himself up to have a really good year,” Freed said. “He put in a lot of time and he had a really successful wrestling season last year and that catapulted him and made him fired up for a really good senior year. He put in a lot of time in the weight room and he’s been a great leader for us. By setting himself up, I’m not surprised with how he’s doing.”

Last winter Bentho advanced to his first Class 3A State wrestling tournament. He went in the 170-pound backet. It wasn’t the state tournament he hoped for as he was eliminated in the first round, but he finished the year 24-15 and more importantly with a hunger to get better.

“I made it to state and I lost out first round,” Bentho said. “That really made me go even stronger for football and really work in the offseason. I became a captain this year and I just really wanted to step up as a leader for these guys and it’s really showing off I think.

“Being a captain was something that I really wanted since sixth grade. My older brother was a football player so I was around the game all the time. His friends were captains and just watching them lead the team made it something I always wanted to be. That was really important to me.”

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JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 855-5856 or jeremy.millsop@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.

Damien Bentho

Damien Bentho
Damien Bentho
Kelly Humphrey

Sport: Football

Position: Running back

Year: Senior

Age: 17

Height: 5-foot-9

Career highlight: Getting that team win against Moorhead

Other sports: Wrestling

Favorite class: Creative foods

Favorite food: Chicken

Favorite movie: “Sandlot”

Favorite TV show: “Naruto”

Favorite website or app: Facebook

Favorite restaurant: Granite City Food and Brewery

Future plans: Attend college and hopefully play football

Favorite athlete: Jackie Robinson

Parents: Julie Herbst

Other notable performances

Kaia Iske, girls swimming and diving, won the 200-yard individual medley and the 100 butterfly against St. Cloud Apollo.

Madi Miller, girls cross-country, won the Titan Invite in 19;37.11.

Kate Stadum, volleyball, finished with eight kills, one ace serve and 20 digs against Willmar and added 37 kills, nine ace serves, 40 digs and four blocks in the Sauk Rapids Tournament.

Keaton Walkowiak, boys soccer, scored the game-winning goal against Sartell.

Lacy Busch, girls tennis, finished the week 6-0 including a first-place finish at No. 3 singles in the Moose Invite.

Claire Erdal and Ericah Folden, girls tennis, won the No. 1 doubles Moose Invite title and finished the week 6-0.

Ellie Brown and Lydia Omberg, girls tennis, won the No. 2 doubles Moose Invite title.

Charlie Pikula, boys soccer, scored two goals against Buffalo.

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Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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