Cubs ecstatic about ending the streakOctober 16, 2017 1:31pm

Oct. 13--KIMBALL -- Hayden Gagnon needed a moment to describe last week's win, his first in four years of high school football.

The 31-16 victory over Upsala/Swanville Area ended a 42-game losing streak.

"It is overwhelming joy," senior wide receiver Hayden Gagnon said. "We finally got one.

"For us seniors who've been working for four years, it was really nice. It was exciting."

The Cubs hope for another streak at 7 p.m. Friday. Kimball (1-5) plays Browerville/Eagle Valley (1-5) in a Mid State Sub-District 3 game.

As wins go, the victory over USA it was a big one. The Patriots were undefeated and ranked 10th in the state Class A poll by The Associated Press.

As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the student section swarmed out onto the field, excitedly congratulating the Kimball Cubs, who hadn't won a game since 2012.

Players wanted to pour water over Johnny Benson's head, but the head coach wouldn't have it.

"We haven't done anything yet," Benson said. "We've won one game.

"Save it."

It was still a moment to savor for the Cubs. They last won on Oct. 23, 2012, beating Spectrum 49-18 in a Section 4-2A playoff game. They lost the next week to Maple Lake, 23-9, in the section semifinals.

And while there were several close calls (including a 46-44 loss to Royalton on Sept. 29), the streak mounted through three coaching regimes, including Jamie Leither and Joe Brennan before Benson took over this season.

"The kids won it," said Benson, a former Becker and St. John's University quarterback."I was telling our kids that we finally put together four good quarters."

Kimball never trailed.Tucker Schultz threw a touchdown pass to Thomas Pearson. Then, Pearson threw a TD to Schultz.

Schultz is the epitome of the Cubs' resurgence. A sophomore, who sat out last year with a broken foot. As an eighth-grader, he played wide receiver.

He was moved to quarterback this fall.

"I don't know why," Benson said. "Not too bad for a kid who doesn't have his driver's license."

He was 14-for-23 for 173 yards with the one catch for a 35-yard TD. For the season, he has completed 91 of 165 passes (55 percent), good for 977 yards and six touchdowns.

"He's had some great moments, some not-so-great moments and some awful moments," Benson said. "And through it all, he's remained calm.

"Nothing rattles him. I wish I could've said the same thing for myself in high school."

Zach Garding rushed for 129 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries and had six catches for 26 yards. Riley Miller had 114 yards rushing with a TD and 11 carries.

Gagnon caught four passes for 66 yards. He's among the area's top receivers with 32 catches for 535 yards and four TDs. He also had an interception at the one-yard line against USA.

"It was definitely a good win for us mentally," Gagnon said. "It makes us realize we can beat good teams.

"Hopefully, it'll lead to some more wins the rest of the season."

After Browerville/Eagle Valley, the Cubs close the regular season Wednesday at New York Mills (1-5).

Benson said the biggest thing for his team has been getting them to believe in themselves. Last year's squad had its share of close, tough losses, too.

"Before you learn how to win, you have to learn how to not lose," Benson said.

Kimball is getting there.

Peyton Schiefelbein had a huge game defensively against USA, recording 13.5 tackles. Joe Donnay had 9.5.

Kimball, located 20 miles south of St. Cloud, has a population of 779. The school's enrollment is listed at 206 in grades 9-12.

It traditionally has been good in sports, making the state volleyball and girls cross country (paired with Eden Valley-Watkins) state tournaments last season. The wrestling (2011, '12) and baseball teams (2015) have been to state in recent years.And, the Kimball Express amateur baseball team just won the Class C state title on Sept. 4.

Gagnon was a sprinter on an all-state 1,600-meter relay team and

But the football team has struggled. The Cubs made state playoff appearances in 1983, '84, '85 and '91 under then head coach Gary Trimble. But the 21st century has been rough.

The Cubs were 5-5 in 2012 and went 7-4 in 2011, playing for a Section 4-2A championship against Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity, losing 22-14 in overtime. From 2004-11, Kimball had a 10-51 record.

Things are looking up, Benson believes. He's a 2011 Becker graduate who played for his grandfather, John Gagliardi, who retired after the 2012 season. Gagliardi is college football's all-time wins leader.

At Becker, he played for Dwight Lundeen, who is No. 3 all-time in victories in Minnesota.

Had he not gotten the Kimball job last April, he likely would be umpiring. He completed training at the Wendlestedt School for Umpires in Ormand, Florida. He received an assignment to work in the Northwoods League this past season, but turned it down.

He's not substitute teaching in the Kimball school district. He has an economics degree and would need to return to college to get certification to teach full-time.

"I love him as a coach and a person," said Gagnon, who had five receptions as a junior. "He brings a lot of energy and he brings a lot of knowledge.

"Everybody knows about all the coaches in his family (including uncle Jim Gagliardi, St. John's offensive coordinator). We're able to have a lot of confidence in him because of it."

The Cubs had the longest losing streak in Minnesota. They are believed to have had the second-longest losing streak nationally, though the state are sketchy.

Hundred High School in West Virginia is believed to be the current losing streak leader at 43 games, according to . Hundred is 0-5 this year. Richland Center (Wisconsin) is next with 40 straight losses, including an 0-8 record this season.

Follow Tom Elliott on Twitter @sctimestom or call 259-3661.

___

(c)2017 St. Cloud Times (St. Cloud, Minn.)

Visit the St. Cloud Times (St. Cloud, Minn.) at www.sctimes.com

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