SARTELL — Ben Gault blew out his knee Sept. 19, 2014, in Bemidji and had surgery Oct. 1. It was the worst moment of his life, until two days later, when his older brother Joe, a special needs adult, died of cancer.
“It was probably the hardest part of my life,” Gault said.
After surgery and a long winter of rehabilitation, Gault has worked his way back into the Sartell football team lineup. Hes a key contributor at right guard and supplies depth on the defensive line.
He’s a player to watch when Sartell renews its rivalry with the Sauk Rapids Storm at 7 p.m. Friday at Sauk Rapids.
Both teams are coming off big wins. The Sabres (1-4) beat Rocori (3-2), 28-21. Sauk Rapids (2-3) knocked off St. Cloud Tech (2-3), 30-29.
“I think we’re just starting to roll here and ready to get some more wins,” said Gault, a junior. “We’ve been so close a couple of times and we pulled it off finally.”
Gault tore two ligaments in his right knee last fall on a kick return in Bemidji. There was no contact. He simply made a cut on the artificial turf at Bemidji State and had a serious injury. It was a tough night.
“I thought it was broken at first,” Gault said. “It was like, ‘Oh, wow. I think I just broke my leg.’ ”
Surgery repaired the damage. His patellar tendon was removed to replace the ligament. Screws were added to hold them in place.
“I’ve got some cool scars,” Gault said.
But then came his brother’s death. Joseph S. Gault, 26, died from complications from neurofibromatosis, Ben Gault said. It’s a genetic disorder that disturbs cell growth and causes tumors to grow on the nervous system, according to MayoClinic.org.
His brother’s version of the problem proved fatal, leaving the Steve and Cari Gault family without one of their three sons (Ben has another older brother, Matt).
“His room (at home) was right next to me,” Gault said glumly. “It still is.”
Gault said all he did for two weeks was lay in bed, depressed about his brother and his situation. Unable to do anything, he watched movies and longed to be active.
“He was disappointed and we were disappointed in losing him last year,” Sartell head coach Scott Hentges said. “He’s done a great job of getting himself ready to play this year.”
Gault is listed at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds. He’s well put together and a dedicated weight lifter. He has maximum lifts of 265 pounds in the bench press, 355 in the squat and can clean 225.
“It’s really paid off for him,” Hentges said. “He’s one of our strongest and most physical kids.”
Gault also is excited about beating Rocori after an 0-4 start. It came on Sartell’s “Tackle Cancer” Night. Many players wore pink. Gault wore pink socks and a pink arm sleeve. It was in honor of his brother, Joe.
“(His death) was kind of a motivator going in,” Gault said.
Hentges said he was impressed with Sauk Rapids quarterback Matt Johnson, who ran for a touchdown and caught a touchdown pass from running back Drew Anderson on a trick play in the Storm’s win Friday at St. Cloud State.
“He had a nice game,” Hentges said.
The keys for Sartell are to run the football to set up the pass and to limit turnovers. The Sabres have sorted out their running game in the last two weeks, getting big games from sophomore John Schmidt, who had been a returning starting linebacker.
“We need to take care of the football,” Hentges said. “Sauk got a bunch of turnovers against Tech that led to points.
“And, we’ve got to create our own.”
Becker’s the best
Count Foley head coach Larry Herm among believers in the Becker football team. The Bulldogs are 5-0, the defending state Class 4A champion, and ranked No. 1 in the state by The Associated Press.
They also beat the Falcons 56-0 Friday.
“That’s the best football team I’ve ever coached against,” said Herm, who has been the Falcons’ head coach since 1989 and been a coach at Foley since 1982. “I don’t see a weakness.
“They have big kids. They’re physical. They run the ball well. They pass the ball well. They have multiple guys in different spots that can rotate in and out. They’ve got excellent depth and great team speed. I’m interested to see how they would match up with the big boys (in Class 6A). … I’m interested to see the team that beats them (in Class 4A).”
Becker (5-0) plays Friday at Milaca (1-4), then plays Oct. 2 against St. Cloud Cathedral (0-5) at St. Cloud State before closing at home Oct. 8 with Albany (5-0).
Albany, by the way, is No. 1 in the Class 3A QRF rankings this week after beating a top-10 Class 4A squad for the second time this season. Last Friday, it was Zimmerman, 34-28. The Huskies opened the season with a 14-7 win over Fergus Falls.
QRF rankings, the property of Minnesota-Scores.Net, are used in many area sections to determine playoff seeds.
• St. Cloud Cathedral alumnus Peter Burg, a left-handed pitcher who was the Times’ baseball Player of the Year in 2005, was inducted in the College of St. Scholastica baseball fall of fame. He pitched for the Saints and was an assistant coach. He’s an assistant baseball coach at the University of St. Thomas.
• Two other Cathedral alumni were honored by St. Scholastica. Brian Minks, from the Class of 2013, earned all-conference honors and was named the team’s defensive player of the year. Steven Neutzling, a 2014 Cathedral graduate, also earned all-conference honors and was named conference rookie of the year.
Follow Tom Elliott on Twitter @sctimestom or call 259-3661.