Byron using Jaws mentality to
wreak havoc on opponents
On the front of Byron football team t-shirts worn by coaches during games are the words: “You’re going to need a bigger boat.”
On the back is a shark fin and the words: “Dang Right.”
The slogan is in reference to the movie Jaws.
“Our defense has adopted a Jaws mentality of always being on attack,” said Byron Head Coach Ben Halder. “They don’t wait for the opponent to enter the water, they jump in the boat a eat the captain!”
That has been the calling card for a defense that has allowed just three touchdowns and created 20 turnovers in five games.
“Our kids have really taken to this mentality,” said Halder.
The Bears are off to a 5-0 start, one of just five teams in Class 4A to hold that distinction and one of 42 teams statewide. They have outscored opponents 220-21 and are ranked third in 4A behind perennial powers Becker and Orono.
“We have a special group of seniors and underclassmen who love football,” said Halder, in his eighth year at the helm. “Our seniors are great leaders and have invested lots of time in the weight room and outside of our time doing football things.”
That dedication has helped catapult them to being the favorite in Section 1AAAA. Last year’s section champion Stewartville has dropped down a class to 3A. The 2021 section champion Kasson-Mantorville currently sits at 4-1 and will travel to Byron this week in a section showdown.
“We felt good coming into this year with our team,” said Halder. “We felt we could compete with anyone in our section every Friday night. We feel like we have a chance every Friday night to be in a competitive ball game.”
The Bears are senior strong and led on offense by running back Adam Glynn and quarterback Kale Robinson. Glynn (5-11/180) has 653 yards rushing on 77 carries and 12 touchdowns. He also has nine reception for 101 yards. Robinson (6-2/180) is 33-for-55 passing for 458 yards and five touchdowns. He also has 281 yards rushing on 30 carries and six scores. Clearing the way on the line is fellow senior Zach Vanderpool (6-5/245). Vanderpool is also a leader on the defensive line that has wreaked havoc on opposing offenses.
They finished the 2022 campaign with a 6-4 record and in 2021 were 4-7. Their turnaround has been credited to consistent hard work.
“Consistent hard work at the little things,” said Halder.
The team is studying the book Chop Wood Carry Water by Joshua Metcalf.
“The message is you build your own house every day in every interaction you have with yourself and others,” said Halder. “This year’s team has taken that to another level and it is showing on the field.”
While Halder is in his eighth year at Byron, he has been coaching football for 20 years. A former player at Minnesota State University-Mankato, the Lake City native knew from an early age he wanted to get into education and coaching.
“It was in part because of the coaches I had growing up as a kid in Lake City,” he said. “Giving back to today’s youth and helping kids reach their potential in the classroom and on the field is an amazing way to serve others.”
In addition to coaching, Halder is a fitness teacher at Byron High School.
“Seeing kids enjoy coming to school and working to become better people and building character fills my bucket every day,” he said.
Halder fell in love with football at an early age. He and his brothers played in Lake City and had the support from their parents to pursue their athletic endeavors. Halder also played basketball and ran track in high school. His prowess on the football field earned him a spot with the Division II Mavericks in Mankato.
“My experience at Mankato was absolutely amazing,” he said. “I made lifelong friends, friends who are still true to this day.”
Halder is a strong believer that football in itself is a great teacher. Playing the game, understanding the disciplines that come with it, being a member of a team working towards the same goal are all things he learned while playing in Lake City and Mankato.
“Commitment, giving your best effort, trusting others and loving others unconditionally are some of the things I picked up,” he said.
Halder credits his high school coach Jim Baker and his staff of Phil Olson, Joe Pohlkamp and Jim Heise for teaching him what it meant to work hard and love your teammates. His college coach was Dan Runkle who invested time into making Halder a better person and emphasized the importance of an education. Other mentors include Todd Glaser, Curt Weise, Brian Haines, Nick Goeser, Mark Sipple, Matt Kender, Tony Jennison, Sam Cummings and Bob Lichy.
“They taught me that investing in young men is a fantastic profession,” he said.
He also credits his current high school staff.
“What an amazing group of men who take every day to make our program better.”
Halder understands the importance of having a strong network of people around you. He understands what it’s like to lean on others in great times of need. When Halder was 28 years old and coaching at Marietta College in Ohio he was involved in an automobile accident. While driving on icy roads in Wheeling, West Virginia, his car slipped beneath the back tires of a semi truck. He would end up losing his left leg. An athlete his entire life, Halder’s life was changed in that instant. He was set to be married in three months to his fiancé Bridgette. But instead he was laid up in a hospital bed and faced with weeks of rehab.
“It was an odd situation to be in,” he said. “Certainly one I never thought I’d be in.”
He went through every emotion known to man.
“You run every emotion imaginable,” he said. “Anger, grief, the why, and many more.”
It was then he realized that all those years playing football and loving his teammates and coaches would be returned in spades.
“It was through the amazing support of my family and friends, the Marietta College football team, Marietta College staff and administration, my Mankato State teammates and friends from college that I was able to get through the situation,” he said. “Through all of the support of so many people I was able to turn a perceived negative into a situation to improve my personal and coaching life.”
In the end, his accident helped him become not just a more grateful and better person, but a better coach. It allowed him to see something much bigger than the football field, and how the football field could help serve as a classroom for turning young boys into young men.
“Every day is a chance to improve yourself as a person and invest in others,” he said. “Sometimes a high five or a smile, something that seems so little, can have the biggest impact on someone.”
While the weight room serves as a great opportunity for athletes to get stronger, Halder understands the importance of mental health as well. A small percentage of players will be able to go on to play college football like Halder did. He understands his job is not just about coaching football.
“We tell our kids to enjoy the process,” he said. “Athletics should be the two hours a day you get to forget about the outside pressures and just play a game. Just have fun playing a game. If they need a break all they need to do is ask. Football is secondary. Their mental health is more important.”
Halder made a decision after his accident. He was sent to rehabilitation center and they were concerned about how he would handle re-entry into society with a prosthetic leg. For many, the transition to a new normal can be unbearable. The doctors asked a nurse to bring Halder to a Walmart in a wheelchair so he could get used to being around people again. Instead, he made the nurse bring him to football practice. It didn’t take long for doctors to know Halder would be okay and they released him the following day.
Today, he relishes in his role as a father to two daughters, a husband, an educator and a coach. His passion and commitment to the players in his program and the students in his classroom are making a difference. It’s what keeps him motivated on a daily basis.
“Serving others and helping others achieve their goals and aspirations is what keeps me going,” he said. “Obviously we are striving to win games on Friday night, but knowing we make a difference for a lot of kids and for our community is really rewarding and makes everything worth it.”
Those Friday night wins have been aplenty so far this season. Cue the Jaws music — duunnn dunnn… duuuunnnn duun… duuunnnnnnnn dun dun dun dun dun.
Is that the Byron Bears coming?