Athlete of the Week: P.J. Bono (September 25, 2021)

Elk River junior running back P.J. Bono celebrates after scoring one of his touchdowns on Friday, Sept. 17, during Team 130's 68-33 win over Coon Rapids at the Zimmerman High School football field. Bono scored three touchdowns and ran for 81 yards on six carries, averaging 13.5 yards per carry.

Junior running back-defensive back P.J. Bono is making the most of his 2021 junior season.

Bono, who was on Team 129 in 2020, is in his first year as a starting running back after former Elk River running backs Rahim Avery and Ryan Wilson graduated from Elk River High School in June.

Bono lit up the Cardinals defense for three touchdowns in Team 130’s 68-33 win over Coon Rapids on Friday, Sept. 17. He ran for 81 yards on six attempts, averaging 13.5 yards per carry.

Bono said he’s proving to his coaches, teammates, and fans that he worked hard during the offseason.

“People would say I’m all talk, all confidence, but it comes with the hard work,” Bono said. “I’ve proven that this season. I’ve been getting a lot more playing time and a lot more reps.” 

This season, Bono has scored five touchdowns and two two-point conversions. He has 149 yards rushing on 18 attempts, averaging 8.3 yards per carry and 49.7 yards per game.

Elks head coach Steve Hamilton said Bono has come out of his shell so far this season.

“He was quiet,” Hamilton said. “He hasn’t played football for a long time. He [was] passive in the past, and he’s being vocal [now]. He’s having fun. It’s fun to see him, not just how he’s better in terms of football, but he’s so much fun to be around—bringing energy to practice and doing the same thing in school.”

Bono’s cousin Sherrod Kpahn is one of his football inspirations. Kpahn, also a running back, played for the Elks from 2015-17 and was a member of Elk River’s Team 125 Class 4A state championship winning team in 2016.

“He just put the confidence in me to be on the field and be confident and play hard [and] try to be the best player on the field at all times,” he said. 

Defensively, Bono is also a presence on Elk River’s backline. He has two tackles and four team tackles.

Junior quarterback Cade Osterman said Bono has done well stepping into the defensive back position, replacing Avery.

“We saw what he can do on offense on Friday night,” Osterman said. “He’s a special player. I hope he continues to get better.”

Bono and junior quarterback Cade Osterman know each other well on and off the field. The duo also play on the Elk River boys varsity basketball team that will begin its 2021-22 season on Friday, Dec. 3. In the classroom, Bono, Osterman and had junior offensive lineman Daniel Yogei had eighth grade earth science together during the 2018-19 academic year at Sauk Middle School. Their teacher was Leif Voltz, who is still teaching Earth Science and AVID [Advancement Via Individual Determination] at Sauk Middle School.

Osterman said he, Bono and Yogei had a blast in earth science learning about everything from volcanoes and rock types to oceanography.

“That was a lot of fun,” Osterman said. “That was Daniel’s first year here. We [Bono and Oseterman] got to know him [Yogei] and picked on him a little bit. It was also tough love. Our teacher [Voltz] would let us move around during work time, so we’d always sit together and chat it up. We’d get our work done, but there was a lot of goofing around, too.”

Although he still has his 2022 senior season next year, Bono is considering playing football in college. His favorite subjects in school have been math and science and he is interested in information technology, better known as IT.

Bono said he’s looking forward to Elk River football teaching him more life lessons over the next few weeks and next fall.

“I’m looking forward to it teaching me how to be a better team player, a better leader and a more positive role model around other people.”

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