Ground Chuck: Punxsutawney’s Zeke Bennett Sits on Top of School’s All-Time Rushing List

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. (EYT/D9) — All Zeke Bennett has ever known is carrying the football.

(Zeke Bennett tries to break a tackle during the win over DuBois/photo courtesy of Josh Cammi, Punxsy 1st and 10 Club)

Since the time the senior on the Punxsutawney football team first buckled a chinstrap, he’s played running back, weaving his way through potential tacklers with his speed and quickness.

Sometimes running through them, too.

“I’ve been doing this since Pee-Wees,” Bennett said. “I just love it. I’ve always loved it.”

Bennett, a senior, is having a stellar season for the Chucks with 840 yards and 10 touchdowns on 157 carries.

Punxsutawney Area High School sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Redbank Chevrolet and DuBrook.


He carried the ball 30 times for 119 yards and a touchdown in a 23-0 win over DuBois on Friday night.

Bennett has been smart about it, knowing when to lower his shoulder and when to avoid contact.

“In the first quarter it might be OK to put you head down a few times,” Bennett said. “But toward the end of the game, you want to try to make more people miss than to try to run over people.”

Bennett has seen varsity action since his freshman campaign.

But the system changed, offering Bennett a greater opportunity to show what he could do.

“He’s such a natural as a running back that he can change styles, whether we’re zone blocking or gap blocking,” said Punxsutawney coach Alan Nichol. “He sees the field so well. His vision and his strength, even though he’s not that big, are assets. He can pop out of those piles and on the edge he’s very elusive.”

Last year was Bennett’s breakout season. He gained 986 yards on 216 carries and scored 10 TDs in nine games for Punxsutawney.

Coming into this season, Bennett realized he a had a good shot at the career rushing record for the Chucks.

“After that,” he said, “I just ran the ball and hoped for the best.”

In a loss against Central Clarion, he came 15 yards short of the record.

A week later against St. Marys he vaulted into the top spot on the all-time list, passing Jason Grusky, who gained 2,113 yards in the late 1980s. Grusky currently serves as an assistant coach for the Chucks.

Bennett now has 2,289 yards in his career.

“It means a lot,” Bennett said. “I’ve really been working hard these last four years to get that and I wouldn’t be able to do it without help from my coaches and my teammates, especially my o-line. But it’s great.

“Honestly, I like it more whenever I’m not the center of attention,” Bennett added. “I like when the rest of the team is able to get into the loop. When everyone else is in the loop, it makes running the ball easier.”

Bennett credited his offensive line of center Quinton Voelkel, guards Griffin Barrick and Ryan Kanouff and tackles Nick Wisnesky and Matthew Grusky for opening up holes for him to run through. He also gave shout outs to his fullbacks, Landon Martz and Justin Miller.

Bennett said he wanted to reach that milestone sooner.

He also would have preferred to do it in a game Punxsutawney won.

“Those two games against Central Clarion and St. Marys were very nerve-racking for me,” Bennett said. “We were missing our starting quarterback and a starting offensive lineman.”

Punxsutawney lost three straight games after a 2-0 start, but bounced back in a big way with the win over the Beavers to move to 3-3.

The three wins are the most since 2017, which is also the last time the Chucks made the playoffs.

“I think we’re back on track,” Bennett said. “Our defense is playing good again. We were able to shut down DuBois’ passing game, which was a big help. That was the main reason why he got a shutout.”

Bennett said he is still unsure of his future plans. He’s looked into trade schools in the south that also have football programs as an option for him.

He said he is getting some local interest from colleges as well.

“I’ve had a few calls,” he said. “But I’m looking more toward the trades. I’ve emailed a few trade schools that have football teams. I have options, but honestly I don’t know what I’m going to do yet.”

His focus, though, is on the here and now, namely a big game on the road at Karns City this Friday.

Bennett would like nothing more than to help Punxsutawney end its playoff drought.

“The mindset I would say is to leave it all out there,” Bennett said. “If all of us give 100% that’s all that matters. If you do that, win or lose, you can’t be mad.”

Punxsutawney Area High School sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Redbank Chevrolet and DuBrook.

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