It was business as usual for the Winner Warriors football team as they punched their ticket to the state Class 11B championship game.
In Friday’s semifinal game at Warrior field, Winner defeated Sioux Valley 28-14. The Warriors remain undefeated at 10-0. They will be making back to back state tournament appearances facing the same team Bridgewater/Emery-Ethan.
Winner will play in the state championship game on Friday, Nov. 13 at 2 p.m. in the Dakota Dome in Vermillion.
Last year the Dome was under construction so the state football championships were moved to South Dakota State University in Brookings. Playing in its first every outdoor state championship game, the Warriors were nipped by BEE 21-14.
Coach Trent Olson said Friday’s game was a tough, hard fought game. “It was very physical. Sioux Valley is tough and very physical. Their quarterback is excellent and we are happy to come out of there with a victory,” said Olson. Olson said the key to the victory was the Warriors winning the turnover battle. “We put the ball on the ground two to three times and we were able to get it back.
If they recovered those fumbles it is a different game,” said Olson. Winner scored a touchdown in each quarter of the game. In the first drive, the defense sacked the quarterback which set up Winner’s first touchdown as Sam Kruger scored on a two yard run. Kaden Keiser’s interception set up another Winner touchdown. Brady Fritz found Kruger open on a 14 yard pass to a touchdown to give Winner a 14-0 lead.
Sioux Valley cut the score to 14-6 in the second quarter and that is how the score remained at the half. A big play for Winner was when they converted a 4th and one from the Sioux Valley 46 yard line. Then Fritz executed a quarterback draw and scored on a one yard run to give Winner a 20-6 lead.
At the start of the fourth quarter Sioux Valley scored on a pass play to cut the lead to 20-14.With 4:18 left to play in the game Keiser scored on a 3 yard run. The two point conversion was good by Fritz and Winner was up 28-14 and on its way to play in another state championship.
The Warriors had a total of 242 yards and 19first downs. Fritz was the leading rusher with 69 yards followed by Kruger with 48, Riley Orel and Keiser both with 32 and Even Farner, 17 Fritz was 3-3 in passing for 35 yards.A strong defensive effort was led by Landon Thieman with 8 tackles and 5 assists. Charley Pravecek had 5 tackles and 4 assists; Sam Kruger, 4.5 tackles, Preston Norrid, 4 tackles and six assists.
After the game, Fritz said Winner knew Sioux Valley was going to be tough. “It is kind of like last year with Webster. We knew we were going to have to guard the perimeters. Sioux Valley has a ton of fast guys. This is the fastest team we have faced all season. Our game plan was to keep them inside. I thought we did a good job of containing them. ”The Winner team knows what it is like to play in a state tournament. It is nothing new to them and they are so ready to travel to Vermillon.“I have been dreaming of playing in the Dome since my older brother (Tanner) went there,” said Fritz. “Last year we got our hearts broken and this year at the beginning of the season we have been eyeing Bridgewater/Emery-Ethan.”
Coach Olson said it will be nice to have another shot at BEE. Preston Norrid has been a strong player for the Warriors. He said the team knew it was going to be a tough game.
Norrid said he is proud of the team how well they performed. The senior says it is a blessing that the Warriors have gone undefeated for two years. “We have a great program and have younger kids who we can rotate in during the regular season,” said Norrid.