Nov. 24—HARMONY — After the Fillmore Central football team's historic victory against Lester Prairie to send the Falcons to U.S. Bank Stadium — and a Class A state semifinal game — for the first time in program history, a 12-year-old boy was in the center of the locker room, eagerly waiting to give a postgame speech.
There was no one the Falcons would have rather heard that speech from more than Weston Bernau.
"You guys worked your butts off today," Bernau started. "You guys are the best football team I've ever played with. Let's go to The Bank!"
The entire locker room erupted in cheers as the biggest smile spread across Bernau's face.
Bernau is the 12-year-old student manager of the Falcons' football team. He's responsible for carting water bottles onto the field for the team during timeouts and between quarters.
The bottles are hooked to his wheelchair.
Bernau is far more than a water boy to the Falcons, though. Bernau has muscular dystrophy, and he's been a symbol to the Falcons team.
"He kind of symbolizes that you can do whatever you want in life," Fillmore Central senior Sam Springer said. "Nothing can hold you back, and that's kind of what our team was going for. If we wanted our goals, we could achieve them."
Fillmore Central had a lot of goals this year, and the Falcons achieved many of them: The won the Section 1A championship for the first time in program history. The Falcons beat Lester Prairie to win their first state tournament game, then they played at "The Bank" for the first time in school history, falling just one point shy of a spot in next week's Class A Prep Bowl.
Bernau was there for every moment, soaking it in and supporting the team as only he can.
"Weston is a true team player, and a great role model for this team, our school and community," coach Chris Mensink said. "We all have challenges and we need to keep battling and keep working. Weston is the true essence of a Falcon."
The trip to U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis was easily Bernau's favorite moment. The best part to him, he said, was "being on the field. And the warmth," he said. It was the first time he'd ever been at the stadium, the six-year-old home of the Minnesota Vikings, and it's clear that he wouldn't have wanted to experience an NFL stadium with any other team.
"(They're) good guys," Bernau said. "I really like talking to them. They're funny."
When asked if he has a favorite player on the team, he quickly responded: "Will, because he's so funny," Bernau said.
"I feel like Weston, over the school year, him and I kind of got a little friendship, I'd say," said senior Will Parker. "He's just fun to be around and awesome to have him on the sidelines."
Bernau made it to every Falcons game, but not many practices — he had his own seventh- and eighth-grade team to practice with.
Bernau is a running back for the middle school team. He played against Winona Cotter this season.
There's one play that will always be in his memory: The "Weston Special," a running play behind the right side of the offensive line, where Bernau followed his blockers and scored.
The inclusion of Bernau in both football teams this season is the best part to his mom, Dawn.
"Weston being a part of daily things that normal kids are always a part of. Sometimes he misses out on the social aspects," she said, "but (football) was something he could go and do and be with all his friends and have a good time."
Bernau loves football and always has. Mensink said he's passionate about the team and "will tell you exactly what he thinks."
And next season, there will be a spot on the sideline for Bernau to continue helping and supporting the Falcons team like only he can.