By Dan Bechtold
Forty-eight Winner High School football players are ready to get after it when the season opens on Friday.
The Warriors will open at home with Stanley County on Aug. 23. Game time is at 7 p.m.
Coach Dan Aaker is starting his 18th year at the helm of the WHS football program.
The team includes 11 seniors, 11 juniors, 14 sophomores and 12 freshmen
The Warriors have 32 returning lettermen including: Charlie Pravecek, Landon Thieman, Ethan Vesely, Brady Fritz, Oscar Pravecek, Phillip Jorgensen, Loren Moeller, Jackson Vesely, Kaden Keiser, Kaleb Osborn, Owen Duffy, Ashton Klein, Zach Bohnet, Preston Norrid, Evan Farner, Kolbie Osborn, Joren Bruun, Adam Bohnet, Achilles Willwueit, Sam Kruger, Aaron Gilchrist, Ryder Mortenson, Bosten Morehart, Jacob Clay, Joey Cole, Owen Monk, Jackson Hanson, Finn Bartels, Trevor Peters, Zane Mandl and Michael Olson.
Last year the Warriors ended the season with a 7-3 record and 6-2 in the regular season. The only two regular season losses were to Sioux Falls Christian and Mount Vernon-Plankinton.
In playoffs, Winner defeated Custer and then lost again in a close game 14-12 to Sioux Falls Christian.
The Warriors lost 10 seniors due to graduation but many skilled people are returning. All skill people on both sides of the ball are returning. Among some of them are Brady Fritz at quarterback, Sam Kruger at runner back, Trevor Peters at running back Phillip Jorgensen and Joren Bruun as wide receiver.
Up front on the offensive line, Oscar Pravecek is the true returning starter. Morehart played a lot on the line last year. Ethan Vesely played tight end and got hurt. “He has experience coming off an injury,” said Aaker.
Playing in the secondary will be Trevor Peters, Joren Bruun and Brady Fritz.
Leading the offense will be Fritz. Aaker said as a sophomore a year ago, Fritz did a good job. “I have never started a sophomore in that position in my 18 years. Brady is a good athlete and has the legs that can beat anybody and is really a smart football player,” said Aaker.
Fritz will be a junior this year and coach plans to use more of him this season.
The area the team will focus on the most is up front on the offensive line. “We are going to be young but we hope as they get more reps they will have a lot more experience by mid season,” said the coach.
He said Willuweit, Duffy, Thieman, Charley Pravecek Jackson Vesely along with his brother have looked good.
The coach said Sam Kruger is an athlete who needs to be on the field. He has been moved to linebacker and will be a big contributor.
Aaker says Thieman will play multiple positions defensively. Senior Ryder Mortensen will be in the mix.
Cailob Week, who transferred from Colome, will give depth in the backfield and secondary. Kaden Keiser has looked good at running back and in the secondary.
Like all Class 11B teams injuries are a concern and the coach hopes the team will stay injury free.
“We have a nice mix of junior and seniors who are fighting for positions and that has elevated our practices,” said the coach.
The Warriors play in the SESD Conference. Aaker said the two teams that return the most are Chamberlain and Mt. Vernon-Plankinton.
In Class 11B, Aaker looks the top teams to be Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan, MVP, Winner and the coach sees Sioux Valley as a sleeper.
Each year the team comes up with a motto and this year it is “Earn it.”
Aaker noted nothing is given to you free, and that incudes things in life.
Some of the goals are to be lead by the defense, win the giveaway takeaway battle by a fair margin and offensive efficiency.
Aaker is proud of his assistant coaching crew. They include Trent Olson who calls the defense and works with the defensive line; Kevin Keiser who works with the offense and running backs, Sam Olson, defense and offensive line. Volunteer coaches are Austin Calhoon, Ben Connot, Glenn Carlson and Larry Aaker.
The 2019 football schedule includes:
Aug. 23—Stanley County, home
Aug. 30—St. Thomas More, home
Sept. 6—at Wessington Springs
Sept. 13—at Wagner
Sept. 20—Valentine, home
Sept. 27—Mt. Vernon-Plankinton, home (homecoming)
Oct. 4—at Chamberlain
Oct. 11—at Miller
Oct 24—first round of playoffs
Oct. 31—second round of playoffs
Nov. 15—State football