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Bigfork elevates Benn to head football coach

by FRITZ NEIGHBOR
Daily Inter Lake | August 8, 2020 7:53 PM

From head coach to assistant to athletic director and now back to head football coach is Jim Benn, who was approved Wednesday to take over the Bigfork Vikings’ program.

Benn, 46, follows Patrick Munson, who resigned his position last week after one season. It gives the Vikings their third head coach in three years: Todd Emslie retired after 16 seasons, including a State B title campaign in 2010, after the 2018 season.

Things have been about that hectic for Benn, the Vikings’ new head coach.

“The last 13 months of my life have been an adventure,” said Benn. He’d accepted a job teaching middle school Spanish and computers at Bigfork, with the intention to assist Munson.

“I didn’t anticipate this happening, but that’s football,” he said. “We’re pretty good friends – I’m sad to see Pat move on. Part of the reason I moved up there is because I liked the guy so much.”

This came after one year at Loyola Sacred Heart, where Benn accepted a teaching job and was the football offensive coordinator in 2019 – but also ended up taking over as activities director early in the school year.

That came after two seasons as Malta’s head football coach. Benn, who has been an assistant for football and head track coach in Huntley Project and Corvallis, also spent eight years as head coach in Ronan, from 2008-15. His record there was 34-38; he went 11-7 in Malta.

“I wanted to be closer to this side of the state,” Benn, who graduated from Frenchtown High School, said of taking the job in Missoula. “And I just had to get back on the Montana teachers’ retirement.”

Benn’s daughters live in Ronan; son Cormac will be a senior this year, and will play in the offensive backfield and at linebacker for the Vikings. Bigfork went 3-6 last season.

“Having coached against Todd Emslie for a number of years, I have a ton of respect for what he’s accomplished,” Benn said. “He’s been a great coach.”

Soon the Vikings will begin practice with hopes of a season underneath the shadow of COVID-19.

“I think the AA schools have got everybody a little spooked, with their decision (to start two weeks late, eliminating overnight travel games),” Benn said. “The rest of us I think intend to follow what the Montana High School Association has lined out for us. We’re pretty hopeful – as hopeful as you can be.

“The kids have worked really hard this summer, and I hope they get to experience something that resembles a season. Anything we get to do, we get to do.”