TORRINGTON – There was a point when Torrington High School football coach Mark Lenhardt wondered if the Blazer program would ever send five total athletes to play college football.
When signing day came around this year, the Blazers will send five athletes – Scott Woodruff, Brandon Bennick, Josh Posten, Josh Kingsley and Cade Schwartzkopf – to the next level out of a single senior class.
“For a school our size, this is a great thing. It just goes to show how far our program has come,” Lenhardt said. “The cool part is, over the last four years, we sent at least one kid onto play college football.”
Torrington is starting to make its presence felt all across the region.
“We had a couple go on to Wyoming. We had a couple go on to Black Hills State. Now, we have guys spread out between Chadron and three guys going to Dickinson and one going to Dakota Wesleyan.”
The senior class has been a part of three conference championships and back-to-back trips to the state championship game in Laramie, racking up a record of 34-7 during their four years in high school.
“I’m really excited for all these guys,” Lenhardt said. “It’s a great group of kids. It’s a great group of seniors. They deserve every accolade they get.”
Dickinson State University
When Lenhardt points to the strength of the team over the last few years, the first thing he mentions is the line of scrimmage.
“When you look at Scotty and Brandon, they are two of the best linemen in the state,” Lenhardt said. “They were highly recruited. Scotty, just from his physical stature, and Brandon, from what he’s done in wrestling and what he proved in football this year had really improved his chances of playing at the next level.”
Woodruff, who anchored the THS offensive line, will continue his playing career at Dickinson State University in North Dakota.
“I went up to Dickinson a couple times,” Woodruff said. “Coach (Michael) McGuire made it seem really nice, made it seem like home.”
It made for an easy decision to take a shot at playing football at the next level.
Woodruff will join Bennick and Kingsley who also signed with the NAIA institution.
“I’ve played next to Brandon for most of my life and played with JK on defense,” he said. “It will be nice to go up there with friends. I can’t wait to get up there and play football.”
He is deciding to major in either business or physical education.
Dickinson State University
Meanwhile fellow lineman Brandon Bennick will join Woodruff on the line at Dickinson State in the fall, protecting the quarterback and clearing the way for the running backs.
The Blue Hawks were the only team to reach out to Bennick.
“They were welcoming there. It was an environment that I could tell from talking with the coaches that I wanted to be a part of,” he said.
Like Woodruff, he is looking forward to joining fellow Blazers in North Dakota.
“It’s going to be nice and make it a lot easier to go up there, knowing a few guys. It will make it easier to bond with the team up there,” Bennick said. “I’m looking forward to it. They are two of my closest friends that I’ve known through middle school. We’ve got something cool going and it will be special to keep those guys together.”
Bennick was a key piece to an offensive line that blocked for a group of backs which combined for more than 2,900 rushing yards while allowing quarterback Casey Britton to throw for more than 1,200 yards and 15 touchdowns.
“I honestly don’t know if I expected as much success as we had,” Bennick said. “I knew we had a great group of guys and hard-working class. Coach Lenhardt is a great coach. All those guys – (Russell) Stienmetz, (Robb) Nicolay, (Stephen) Easton, (Aaron) Wolfe, (Ryan) Workman – they are all great coaches, and they shaped us to be who we are. We had that winning mentality and we didn’t know how to lose.”
Bennick plans to major in pre-physical therapy.
Dickinson State University
Kingsley will be the third member the Blazer team who will be heading to DSU in the fall.
“The coach got a hold of me and was talking the program up,” Kingsley said. “He made it sound really good.”
He decided to go check it out for himself.
“When I went up there, he under talked it. It was so much better than what he made it out to be. It was an amazing experience,” Kingsley said. “They take care of their players.”
He felt at home in Dickinson.
The Blue Hawks plan to use Kingsley in the Z position on the defensive side of the ball, he said.
“It’s a combination of d-lineman and outside linebacker,” Kingsley said. “With my athletic abilities, they said they don’t find a lot of people who can fill that spot.”
Kingsley tallied eight sacks in 2018– tied for the most in the state in any classification – while recording 77 total tackles and two fumble recoveries.
“He’s just a kid who’s played better every year,” Lenhardt said. “His tape popped so much, especially on special teams. They higher level you go in football, pass rushers are more of a premium. I expect Josh to be a huge force rushing off the edge.”
Kingsley plans to major in fire science.
Chadron State University
Schwartzkopf will continue his career at Chadron State University, a NCAA II institution in Nebraska.
It was a fairly easy decision for him when he went on his visit despite having multiple opportunities.
“I clicked with the coaches right away,” Schwartzkopf said. “The facilities are amazing. The campus is beautiful. It just felt like the right fit for me.”
He will continue to focus on the receiver position this fall.
“When he gets to place where can work on being a receiver only, I only expect him to get better and improve,” Lenhardt said.
Schwartzkopf led Class 3A with 35 receptions in 2018. He recorded 436 yards of receiving to go along with three touchdowns.
“It’s been a great run. I’ve had the best head coach possible in Mr. Lenhardt,” Schwartzkopf said. “He’s given me a lot of opportunities and skills to be successful in college. I owe a lot to him, as well as the rest of the coaching staff – Mr. Nicolay, Mr. Workman, my position coach. The entire staff in general. They are smart guys and the reason why we’ve been so successful the last few years.”
Schwartzkopf plans to major in chemical engineering.
After multiple visits to Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, S.D., Posten knew the Tiger program was for him.
“On those visits, I had a chance to visit with some of their players and they were very friendly and very welcoming,” Posten said. “Every player up there has bought into the program. It’s a program on the rise, and I wanted to be part of that.”
Posten was the second leading rusher for the Blazers with 351 yards on 57 attempts. He scored three times. He also caught seven passes for 109 yards, adding three more touchdowns.
“I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Posten said of his time as a Blazers. “Obviously, we came up a few games short of the main goal, but the community support, my parents, my friends, just everyone surrounding us and having our backs the entire time. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
At DWU, he will continue to be a running back and will get some looks on special teams as well.
“He’s a future coach in the making,” Lenhardt said. “He’s going to be awesome for their program. He’s a guy who can do a lot of different things. It will be cool to send someone somewhere completely different.”
Posten plans to major in physical therapy.