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47TH ANNUAL SHRINE BOWL | NORTH NOTEBOOK

Meeteetse's Dace Bennett embraces move from 6-man to 11-man for Shrine Bowl

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Dace Bennett can be forgiven for being a little overwhelmed, and possibly somewhat exhausted, this week. The recent Meeteetse graduate is ready to put the cap on an impressive high school career at Saturday’s Shrine Bowl as a member of the North squad.

Bennett is one of just four of the 72 players on the North and South teams who played Class 1A/6-man football. Also having to make the adjustment from 6-man to 11-man this week are North teammate Bryce Ackerman from Hulett and South competitors Zander Risner from Snake River and Koye Gilbert from Encampment.

“It’s been a huge whirlwind of change going from six-man to 11-man,” Bennett said before Wednesday’s afternoon practice at Natrona County’s Cheney Alumni Field, the site of Saturday’s game. “It definitely takes some getting used to, especially for me going from playing running back, quarterback and defensive back (at Meeteetse) to now playing tight end.”

North teammate Carter McComb from Sheridan has been impressed with Bennett’s grasp of the 11-man game in such a short time.

“I think he was a little confused at first with all the 11-man stuff,” McComb said, “but he’s proved he belongs up here.”

Bennett was a three-sport standout at Meeteetse, earning all-state honors in football, basketball and track and field. He was a two-time all-state football selection for the Longhorns, who were state runners-up to Farson in 2020 and lost to eventual state champion Snake River in the semifinals last year. This past season Bennett had more than 3,100 all-purpose yards and accounted for 44 touchdowns (19 rushing, 25 passing). Against Dubois on Sept. 18, 2021 he had 665 all-purpose yards — 336 rushing, 279 passing — and was responsible for 10 TDs in an 80-68 victory. In addition to the all-state honors, Bennett was named the 1A/6-man offensive player of the year.

Bennett, Ackerman, Risner and Gilbert are coming off a 68-44 victory over Nebraska in the annual Six-Man Shootout on Friday in Chadron, Nebraska. Bennett had three touchdown passes and ran for two more scores to help Wyoming snap a two-game losing streak in the series. Ackerman, Risner and Gilbert added two TDs apiece.

“We played Friday night and then left early Saturday morning to get here,” Bennett said. “We checked in and went right back to practice. It was a really good game and it was fun to play with all those six-man guys.”

Now Bennett is making the adjustment to having more players on the field. But it’s one he’s embraced, especially considering he’ll be attending the University of Montana Western in Dillon, Montana, on a football scholarship. Playing alongside, and against, more players isn’t the only change Bennett will have to make at the next level.

“When I go to Montana Western I’ll be going in as a defensive back before I gain enough weight to move up to linebacker,” he said.

Making the move from Meeteetse to Montana Western, a four-year school that competes at the NAIA level, is one that Bennett believes he’s ready for. And even though he’s going to a school that has almost twice as many students as the population of Meeteetse (746, according to the 2020 census), Bennett plans to take his small-town mentality with him.

“Being a small school like we are, everybody bonded and we always had that brotherhood,” Bennett stated. “It didn’t matter what sport it was, we got to see the same guys in every sport. Even to this day I still keep in touch with those guys that were seniors when I was a freshman.

“I showed up this week and not really knowing anybody,” he added. “But ever since I got here we’ve all really bonded together.”

North notebook

After spending the past four years competing against each other on the football field, Sheridan’s Carter McComb and Kelly Walsh’s Cameron Burkett get to be on the same sideline at Saturday’s Shrine Bowl.

The two might want to get used to wearing the same uniform as the recent graduates are both headed to the University of Wyoming on track and field scholarships in the fall.

Burkett made his decision earlier this spring to compete in the throwing events for the Cowboys. McComb, however, was all set to play football at Montana Tech before last month’s state track and field championships.

“After state track the UW coach had some money available and it was a better offer than (Montana) Tech,” McComb explained. “I do like football a lot, but it will be fun to go run at UW and be teammates with Cameron. I’m excited.”

McComb won both the 100- and 200-meter dashes in Class 4A as well as running on the Broncs’ winning 4x100 relay team and placing second in the 300-meter hurdles. He also won the 55 and 200 at the state indoor meet.

Burkett was equally impressive at the state meet. He finished second in the discus, but set a new all-class state record in the shot put with a toss of 65 feet, 10.25 inches.

“It was pretty cool,” Burkett admitted, “but I’ve got to get back in shape and I’ve got to work on some technique stuff before I get to UW.”

Of course, both players had outstanding prep careers on the gridiron. Burkett was a two-time all-state selection at running back while McComb earned all-state honors as a defensive back and kick returner.

Earlier this week, they were two of five finalists for the annual Milward Simpson Athlete of the Year Award. The well-deserved selection came as a surprise to both players.

“I didn’t even know that was a thing until my dad told me I got nominated,” Burkett said.

Added McComb: “I didn’t even know what it was and then my dad congratulated me. Now that I know what it is, it’s pretty cool.”

Follow sports editor Jack Nowlin on Twitter @wyovarsity

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Sports editor

Jack Nowlin returned to the Star-Tribune in 2007 after eight years covering Michigan State University athletics. A Wyoming native, and a graduate of Jeffrey City High School and the University of Wyoming, Jack serves as the Star-Tribune’s sports editor.

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