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    “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!”  The meaning behind this saying is to identify characteristics and values that a father and son share.  Well, its obvious that sports were a common denominator in the Connot household and the “apple” Ben Connot clearly shares the love of sports that Bob instilled in him.


    Bob was born and raised in Winner, South Dakota.  Bob spent his early years working on the family farm; which instilled a strong work ethic, toughness, and pride that Bob would embody for his entire life. 

    As Bob got older he fell in love with sports.  Football quickly became one of Bob’s passions and when asked about his high school homecoming, Bob would simply say, “Winner 33-Valentine 6.” Bob was very proud that both he and his grandpa were centers on teams that beat Milbank to win state titles.  Bob in 1989 and his grandpa in 1933. 

    We know Bob Connot on this website as the SOD BUZZARD.  The marquee writer for the SDSPORTSBUZZ.  He was a blogger, a web-caster, the manager of a softball team, a commissioner of a little league, the founder of a NCAA bracket challenge, a Winner Warrior historian, and a die-hard Cubs fan.  Bob loved to garden and he loved to watch Winner Warriors football from the HILL!

    Bob passed away May 26th, 2016 at the age of 43 years young.


    As an athlete, I can remember Bob at all of our sporting events, supporting the Winner Warriors.  He was there when I caught the game-winning 2-pt conversion to beat O’Neill, Nebraska (the only game my parents ever missed), he was there after we got throttled in the dome by West Central, he was there when we lost in an overtime thriller to Platte at the state basketball tournament, and he was there when we played in the state baseball tournament.  He loved sports and he was the Winner Warrior historian!

    Over the course of time, I got to know Bob as a friend.  He worked down the hallway from my mom for many years when he was with the Sheriff’s department.  When I became an adult, I had the privilege of coaching his son, Ben, on the South Dakota Heat.  He was like a big brother to all of from my era. 



    His greatest pride was his family.  All of his kids have all been successful, but for the purpose of this article, we will focus on Ben; his oldest son.  Ben graduated from Winner High School in 2013 and was a great athlete.  He was an all-state football player and the Joe Robbie MVP when Winner beat Tri-Valley.  He was an all-conference basketball player, and as previously stated he played on one of my South Dakota Heat AAU basketball teams. After high school, Ben attended South Dakota School of Mines and Technology for 1 year and played safety on the football team.  After Tech, he would transfer to Black Hills State University and major in K-12 special education.


    Highway 18 is a hotbed of South Dakota Football.  Last season, the Pheasant Belt boasted 3 champions from South Central South Dakota.  Winner, Gregory, and Colome all won state titles and all are within 30 miles of each other.  The opportunity to coach the Cowboys opened up and Ben was very interested.  But how exactly did this win-win situation take place?  How does a student teacher at Black Hills State get an opportunity like this?  And how does a small community get a promising young coach with good character to be the football coach?

    In Connot’ s words, Obviously being from the area I showed interest to a few people that I knew from the community. I got the superintendents number after he was interested in speaking to me. Then it all just kind of unfolded from there with the interview process. It happened really fast and only took a couple of weeks to get me hired. I am very thankful for the people that helped me get the job, and spoke up for me.”

    Some of those people that have helped Ben with his transition are, “ The first person I want to thank is Coach Gene Bertram. Gene is my assistant coach and the defensive coordinator. He has been around Colome football his entire life. He has taught me a lot about the game and a lot about what Colome football is about. He really does resemble the identity that Colome football carries.  Rahn Bertram who played football for Colome, and was a former Joe Robbie himself has been a huge help. He became a head coach at a young age for Elk Point-Jefferson. He has really showed me the way and what needs to be done and how it needs to be done as a young, first year head coach. He has really made me feel comfortable about what I am doing as a coach and the importance of impacting kid’s lives. Terrance Kinzer who is a year younger than me. Knew him all through high school. Was a standout athlete for Colome and played some college ball at Morningside has helped a lot with the X’s and O’s as far as the transition from 11 man to 9 man goes. I think Terrance really brings that edge and competitive nature to push everyone around him to be better.”

    Typically there is a transition from player to coach that prevents young coaches from having immediate success.  Ben does not seem to have a struggle with this as he says, “The biggest adjustment I have had is the scheming. As a player I focused on my job and only my job. Now as a coach I have to make sure all 9 guys are doing their job correctly.”


    BUY IN

    Ben is a well-spoken young man and is wise beyond his years in 'football age'.  Yet, there is no denying that he is only 22.  It would be easy for the players on this defending state championship team to do their own thing and ignore a coach that is younger than most of their older siblings.  Instead, the opposite happened.  They started working out together and created a mutual relationship; a symbiotic one, in which they would both benefit from each other.

    Coach Connot said, Building a relationship with the kids and coaching staff has been the highlight of the season. The kids and coaches have really embraced me and bought into what I was selling for the program right away. We started summer lifting and condition three times a week with passing camp once a week all summer and had great participation. I could see how it would be so easy for them to turn me away because of my age and little coaching experience I had, but they gave me a chance and respected what I wanted.”

    Any coach will tell you that the key to success is having players.  Somebody once told me, “You can’t take a donkey to the derby and expect to win.”  One luxury that Coach Connot has is a good group of players with championship pedigree.  Ben is also keenly aware of the talent on his team. 

    He said, “The athletes we rely on are Jackson Kinzer, Layton Thieman, Nash Atteberry, and Beau Bertarm. Jackson is the kid that we can count on to get 4 yards when we only need 3 for the first down. He is consistent and you know what to expect out of him each and every game. As far as numbers go he has had some big games this year already. Most importantly, he is a great leader. Not so much by words, but by action. Everyone watches and follows what he does. Layton Thieman is the QB and Free safety. He doesn’t come out on offense or defense ever. Layton makes sure he knows what everyone is supposed to be doing and really controls the huddle well. As a quarterback Layton is day and night different from last year. You can tell he has really matured, and is making the right decision. Nash and Beau are our vocal leaders. They aren’t afraid to tell someone where to go. They lead our defense with their physicality and relentlessness and getting after the ball carriers. We count on them to be the “tough guys” day in and day out.”


    When winning becomes the culture it then becomes an expectation.  In Colome, competing for a state title is the norm and that can add pressure around a program.  Pressure can break pipes or make diamonds; well it appears that Colome got a diamond!  Connot says, “I always get asked if I feel any pressure taking over the defending 9B champs.  Honestly, I don’t feel any pressure. The kids know this is a new year and a new team. The expectations they have set for themselves haven’t changed one bit. Right now, I am doing my best to take it one week at a time. As far as coaching, this has been one of the most exciting times of my life. Every player looks to me to when they need an answer, and I have tried my best to make sure they get it right the next time. I wouldn’t change a thing so far.”

    Ben realizes the importance of preparing the Cowboys for each week and high expectations are evident in his coaching philosophy.  Ben says, “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” Is a quote from my favorite coach of all time, Vince Lombardi. I don’t mean do whatever it takes at all costs to win, or that if we lose we consider it a failure. What I mean is that when I coach and tell my players that we want to win, we are focused on the goals and values that we make for ourselves to achieve winning. It all starts with preparation and what we are willing to do to achieve our goals. We need to have a plan, and we need to strive to execute that plan to perfection for us to achieve our goal. Most importantly that plan for perfection needs to happen each and every day.  I think that this absolutely carries over to other aspects of life. If we want to succeed at something, we need to prepare and work our butts off to achieve that goal. Everything we face in life we should always strive to be the best version of ourselves. Each day you decide to do something you either get better, or you get worse. You never stay the same.” 


    This week the Colome Cowboys (6-0, ranked #2) will host Corsica-Stickney (6-0, ranked #1).  There is a ton of hoopla around this game and it should feel like a championship game.  Coach Connot says, “This is the game we have talked about all summer and fall. Last year was a great matchup and a semifinal game that will go down in the books. They are a very similar team in regards to the double wing offense they run, and that they are led by their defense. We need to control the line of scrimmage. We need our first three steps to be quicker than their first three steps. They have a stud running back in Cordell Menning who will be a handful for us. Getting all 9 hats to the ball and wrapping up will be key. Lastly, we need to understand the importance of hidden yards and how to win that battle. Little decisions like fair catching the ball on the 20 yard line instead of letting it go and rolling to the 1 yard line will be big in this game.”


    To bring this blog full circle, I think Bob would be extremely proud of Ben.  I wish my friend was still around so he could humbly brag about his son.  I asked Ben about advice that his dad gave him that still sticks with him.  He said, “Three things of advice my dad always told me when I was playing football.

    1.       The first thing is that the game of football is played on a field 6 inches between your ears. What people don’t realize is that football is such a mental game. Knowing your job and how you are you supposed to align is half the battle. If you give up a big play you have to remember that football is a long game and there is going to be a play right after it to make up for it.

    2.       The second thing is to not take anything for granted. As a coach I am sure there are hundreds of people that wish they were in my position right now. I want to make sure that I make the most of this opportunity. I tell my players the same thing. There are thousands of kids that wish they could be in the position that they are in right now. To be putting on a Colome Cowboys jersey on Friday nights. Don’t take the opportunity they have right now for granted, because it can be taken away from you by one bad choice off the field or an injury on the field. 

    3.       The last piece of advice he gave me and the most important one to me is, Live in the moment. When you are on the field, just take a moment to stop and look around. Slow everything down. Take it all in because you will never get that exact feeling again. Playing football here in Tripp County is a very special experience that not very many people get. The love for the game and love for the athletes can only truly be felt when you are under the lights playing. Embrace that moment. “

    Gives you goosebumps, doesn’t it?  Congrats Ben and good luck Cowboys. 



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