With 167 yards rushing through two games, Hinsdale Central running back Ben Stefani is on his way to having a solid senior season.
However, that’s not what the 5-9, 185-pound back is most proud.
This past summer Stefani went to Guatemala with football teammates Ian Bunting, Alec Edstrom, Trevor Paul and Jack Bush-Joseph to pour concrete floors as part of a mission trip for Young Life, a non-denominational Christian youth group.
“There’s a huge garbage dump in Guatemala City, it’s like the biggest in Central America,” Stefani said. “There’s a ton of people who make their living by picking through the trash and finding recyclables and they only make two to three dollars a day.
“Instead of providing subsidized housing, the government will let people squat on the covered landfill. There’s a lot of tin-roof houses with dirt floors. It was rainy season when we went down there so a concrete floor can be so big for a family.”
Stefani’s 20-year-old twin brothers, Matt and Steve, had gone on the mission before and told him what to expect. But nothing could prepare him for what he saw.
“I thought I knew what I was going to be in for but it was a complete culture shock,” Stefani said. “But it was a really awesome experience. It was humbling to see how some people live. I got really close to one of the families we worked with.”
Stefani spent eight days in Guatemala and it’s an experience that will have a lasting impact, especially compared to life he’s used to in affluent Hinsdale.
“We talked about that a lot, the contrast in the ways we live,” Stefani said. “It definitely gives you a nice new perspective on the way you live your life. It has changed the way I think about things. You hear how people live in this poverty but you don’t understand it until you’re immersed in it.”
The Young Life group, which consisted of 19 teenagers, was led by former Hinsdale Central football player Matt Mrozek, who graduated in 2010.
“He’s a really smart kid, got a 36 on his ACT and goes to Northwestern now,” Stefani said. “We’ve always been really close to him. He’s like a big brother to us.”
While Stefani plans to return to Guatemala, his focus right now is on Hinsdale Central football. He missed the first four games of last season with an injured ankle but he’s healthy now and making big contributions, including 113 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries in the team’s 36-14 win over Addison Trail on Friday.
“He may look small, but he’s a power back,” Red Devils’ quarterback Chase Hamilton said. “He really lowers his shoulder and can hit anybody. He also has the speed to break it off for a big run.”
“He brings a lot of heart and desire and has some athletic ability,” said head coach Rich Tarka. “He’s a hard worker and a fighter. You can see that he fights for every yard out there.”
Stefani plans to attend a big university next year so he knows the end of his football career is quickly approaching.
“A 5-9 white running back isn’t what Wisconsin or Illinois is looking for,” Stefani joked. “I’ll hang up the cleats after this season and hopefully go to a Big Ten school. I’d like to own my own business some day.”