LENA, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) –Quarterbacking Lena-Winslow football teams runs in the Benson family. Three of them have done it. Two of them are a big part of Le-Win’s playoff football team this season.
Senior Luke Benson is Le-Win’s starting quarterback. He’s in his third season as the Panthers’ starter. His dad Kyle is the Panther’s offensive coordinator. After every offensive play Luke runs to the sideline to get the next play from his father.
Does Luke ever offer his dad a suggestion, like ‘Hey dad, I think this play might work?
“Once in a while, sometimes,” said Luke.
“As he’s gotten older, I’d say more this year than the first two years he’s come over,” said Kyle Benson. “He doesn’t give suggestions to benefit necessarily himself, but he’s out there. He sees what’s going on and with his experience I trust him.”
Luke has been around Lena-Winslow football most of his life. He began as a ball boy.
“I started out in first grade until about sixth grade maybe, and I just took care of the footballs. Gave them to the refs.” “I loved it. It was awesome!”
Kyle Benson remembers those days well. “He’d come out to practice every day for about five minutes after school waiting for his mom to leave school. He’d come out and chuck the ball around with the older guys, and they’d run routes for him, or he’d run routes for them.”
Kyle himself played quarterback for the Panthers in 1988 and ’89. Those were times when Lena-Winslow was far from a football powerhouse.
“When he was the quarterback here, they were 0-18,” said Luke. “But things have changed.”
“It was pretty miserable,” said Kyle. “It’s rewarding to see our program where it’s at now compared to what it was back then.”
The third quarterback in the family is Luke’s older brother Cade. His junior year in 2017 Le-Win won a state championship. In 2019 Le-Win won state again with Luke as the starting quarterback. Kyle Benson was on the coaching staff those years able to share those championship moments with his sons.
“It’s very special. Something you would never dream of.”
The Benson’s spend a lot of time breaking-down game films. Kyle also coaches Luke on the varsity boys’ basketball team. So, when they’re at home, they try to leave a lot of that behind at the school.
“I think the best part about it is we leave sports where sports are, and at home it’s just home,” said Luke.
“In a perfect world we’re player and coach here at school, and we’re dad and son at home,” said Kyle. “I’m not saying that’s always the case. We’re never perfect at it, but I think that’s what works best for us. Every dad who coaches his son has a different dynamic. I don’t know if there’s one way that it works, but for us that seems to work best.”
So when Lena-Winslow is coming off a tough loss, which Benson takes the loss harder?
“That’s tough,” said Luke. “I’d say when I was younger maybe I would say him, but now maybe me.
“I think Luke’s right,” said Kyle. “I think in the past maybe it was me. Being a parent, to be honest, has changed me a little bit as a coach, because it’s a different perspective of what kids are going through after a loss. You see how losing makes them feel.”
Luke has thrown some great touchdown passes at Lena-Winslow, but he doesn’t get to show off his passing ability that often. At Lena-Winslow quarterbacks are more game managers. It’s all about the run game.
“Just getting the running backs the ball is my main job,” said Luke. “I’m perfectly fine with it. Whatever gets us the win.”
“He’s gone from an older boy to a younger man,” said Kyle of overseeing Luke’s three years as Le-Win’s starting varsity quarterback. “I’m really proud of him.”