Pigskin preview and Harvey Naasz

The 2020 Pigskin Preview features a story on they 40th anniversary of South Dakota High School Activities Association football playoffs and football championships.

November of 1981 brought the first ever state football championships.

The magazine  features a story on Harvey Naasz, long time Winner High School football coach.

Naasz was the coach of the Warriors who defeated Vermillion 31-21 in the first Class 11A championship in 1981. It will mark the 40th anniversary of that historic Winner football victory.

The story tells how Naasz fondly remembered his 1981 team and their road to the championship.

“All year long we knew we had a good team,” he said. “We were undefeated. The year before we also went undefeated with 18 seniors who did not get to play in a championship game but we had 18 juniors on that team who were now a year older. In the playoffs, we had to beat Mobridge and Belle Fourche to be able to get to the Dome.”

Naasz recalled memories involving the Warriors rivalry between Winner and Vermillion. “We had beaten Vermillion 6-0 earlier in the season in DakotaDome so we were familiar  with them. “I knew it was going to be a good match up as Coach Culver was a good coach. Once when we found out we had to face Vermillion again I thought whoever scored 14 points was going to win the game. Lo and behold we scored 31 points and even on the first play of the game. We faked off tackle and ran our left end deep so John threw a pass to Dean Novotny who ran it in for the touchdown.”

While Winner led the entire game, Coach Naasz shared two integral plays that sealed the championship for the Warriors.

“With five minutes left in the game, Jack Sharkey ran off tackle 50 yards for a touchdown to give us some breathing room,” Naasz said. “We knew we finally had them when we intercepted a pass with just seconds left in the game and ran out the clock.”

Coach Naasz said the championship was especially poignant for him and his family. “It was kind of a family affair for me,” he said. “I was coaching my son Brian as he was a senior that year. My son Bart was on the team the year before and came down from Northern to watch. My son Brad was a sophomore on the team as well. My wife Karen was from Vermillion.”

Coach Naasz spoke about what it meant to be a state champion and what it meant to the community of Winner.

“It felt great,” he said. “I don’t think I quit smiling for two weeks. Bart and I went out to the football field on the Sunday after we won and saw a bunch of kids playing football. I remember talking to them and saying they too could be in the Dome if they worked hard. It was a very big deal to win the championship,” he said. “Our community really rallied around us. Players would walk into stores and they were get cheered. Our fans loved following our team.” Naasz went on to win some other state football championships.

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