Benet's Beneventi Clutch in Win

Sophomore Jack Beneventi was calm when it counted.

Benet sophomore quarterback Jack Beneventi doesn't let a lot rattle him. He made that clear Saturday when he threw the game-winning touchdown pass as time expired to defeat Downers Grove North.

But if you saw Beneventi just a year ago, he wouldn't look like the typical football player. But a lot of hard work went into being the player he is today.

"Last year I weighed only about 158 pounds or so," he said. "I got up to about 190 to face what some of these guys are like in the varisty level. Mentally, My coaches helped me a lot with my reads and preparing to read defenses and all that. I work with Jeff Christiensen. A few of my teammates came with me to work out with him. After lifting, we would always stick around after and work for a while too."

Beneventi wasn't the only surprise this year. Benet, who went 1-8 just a year ago, turned their program around in incredible fashion. Entering the playoffs at 8-1 and now at 10-1, Benet wasn't going to be satisfied with a small improvement on last year.

"Throughout this whole season, everyone just stayed hungry," Beneventi said. "They still remembered that 1-8 season. Nobody wanted to feel what they felt last year. It's great seeing our work pay off. Everyone, even now, we have to work even harder with Lincoln-Way East next week. These guys love the game, and even in school they work hard. And they're ready to play when the game comes around."

As just a sophomore, it isn't always easy to take command of the offense. But Beneventi has a big appreciation for the way his teammates have supported him throughout his maturation at quarterback.

"It helps having the guys we have on this team," he said. "They really supported me throughout the offseason learning the plays and getting to know everyone. They don't look at me as a sophomore. In practice we're all one team and one age. It made it easy for me to take a leadership role on this team."

He made a statement Saturday with his big play. It would be easy for a sophomore in his first year starting to be rattled in that situation, but Beneventi had the mentality of a veteran when it mattered most.

"My mindset was just to stay calm the entire time," he said. "It was getting crazy with all the fans and we went to the no huddle. As long as everyone was positive and on the same page. My guys made some great catches on the drive to keep us alive. I was very confident in that final play because everyone was putting everything into that play. Our season rode on that. No matter what I had to do to score, I was going to make it happen."

This week will be the biggest test of the year for Benet. They face an undefeated Lincoln-Way East team who has steamrolled through their opponents up to this point.

"This game is huge for us," he said. "This will be our toughest game of the season. If we did win this game it would be tremendous for us. We have to work hard all week because they're great on both offense and defense."

Beneventi already knows what he can and can't do as a quarterback. But what he can do, he does well.

"I'm a pass-first guy but I can move around in the pocket if I need to, throw on the run if I need to," Beneventi said. "I don't have blazing speed but I can pick up a few yards or a first down if I need to. This is our fourth offense in four years, but coach matched more pro style with some spread mixed in and make it work for us."

Beneventi stays sharp year-round. A dual-sport athlete also playing basketball, he never takes an offseason. And just as basketball is a second sport to Beneventi, one of his football teammates has a future in basketball.

"I'm always practicing my form and technique," he said. "Maintaining and lifting every week. A little speed work here and there to keep my body active. I watch a lot of film and study defense's tendencies. I play basketball too. Sean O'Mara is going to have a big year for us out there too. This year I'll be on varsity, but I'll probably be more of a role player."

Even though he's still young, the recruiting process has already begun for Beneventi.

"I've been hearing from Notre Dame, Northwestern, and my coach said that Illinois called," he said. "Notre Dame has been the biggest so far though. I'd say I grew up following Notre Dame and Northwestern a bit growing up. My dream school I've been following a lot is Stanford. I liked Andrew Luck but I really love the school too. The academics and the school altogether are great."

Illinois is just beginning their recruitment of Beneventi, but things are sure to heat up soon.

"From Illinois, I haven't personally talked to them yet, but they've called my coaches. I might start hearing more from them after the season though," he said.

He's also really looking forward to everything that comes along with the recruiting process and what the next two years will hold.

"I think it's just going to be fun to travel, see different schools and talk to different coaches," he said. "I went to Notre Dame for an unofficial against Stanford, and it was really exciting to see the game and all that."

But no matter what happens on Saturday against Lincoln-Way East, Beneventi and the Benet Red Wings know that they've already accomplished more than they could have dreamed of. But for now, the dream continues.

"We definitely exceeded our expectations this season," Beneventi said. "It was our first conference title in the ESCC. Going 11-1 at this point and making the semifinals. Regardless of what happens this weekend, I don't think anyone should be upset about this season at all."

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