Experience and depth paid off for the Winner Warriors as they opened the football season with a 52-7 victory over Stanley County on Friday. On a hot night the Warriors put the pressure on Stanley County even though they struggled in the first part of the game. It was a night that football players were just happy to play a game.
This is the first athletic contest at Winner High School in the last five months. COVID-19 has changed everyone’s lives and that change has also involved the sports world.So Winner is following all the rules of the South Dakota High School Activities Association and the CDC to ensure they have a complete season. Some of those rules involved wearing masks on the bus trip to Ft. Pierre and assigned seating. Temperatures were taken of each player as they got on the bus.
The first points did not come onto the scoreboard until 1:43 left in the first quarter when Riley Orel scored on a 26 yard run. Shortly after Winner’s score, Stanley County counter as Evan Nordstrom ran 76 yards for the touchdown. Stanley County kicked the ball for the extra point and took the lead 7-6.One of coach Dan Aaker’s goals this year is preventing big plays from halting Winner drives. However, the Warriors gave up four big plays in the first half. Once the Warriors got clicking there was no stopping the No. 1 rated team in Class 11B.
Preston Norrid had a big 17 yard carry to setup a Winner touchdown at the end of the first quarter. With 4 seconds left, QB Brady Fritz carried the all in on a 15 yard TD run. The Warriors were now up 14-7. The Warrior running backs are so deep and that depth and ability to give the ball to multiple runners showed up in the second quarter as Winner scored three more touchdowns. Orel scored on a 4 yard run and this was followed by Karson Keiser on a 7 yard run and Sam Kruger on a 46 yard run.
Winner led 34-7 at the end of the first half.“We built up a nice lead at the half and we wanted to finish the second half strong. The only negative was the amount of penalties in the third quarter,” said the coach. A touchdown run by Orel in the third quarter was called back due to a penalty. Winner responded with Evan Farner scoring on a 2 yard run and giving the Warriors a 42-7 lead.
In the fourth quarter, Winner scored a safety as the Buffaloes lined up for a punt. A lot of younger kids got into the game in the second half. Aaker said the sophomores got a taste of varsity football.The last touch down was scored by Aaron Gilchrist on a 6 yard run as he went over the top to make the score.
The Warriors had 510 yards of total offense.Sam Kruger was the offensive leader as he picked up 147 yards on 9 carries. Orel had 95 yards, Keiser, 61 yards and Preston Norrid, 56 yards. In passing, Fritz was 1-4 for 21 yards.Leading tacklers on defense Farner, Orel, Norrid and Landon Thieman, all 4; Keiser, Joey Cole both 3.
The Warriors will travel to Rapid City on Friday and play St. Thomas More. This is a big rival between the two schools. Last year Winner defeated STM twice, once in the second week of the season and in the quarterfinals of the football playoffs. “This is a game we get excited for and the community is excited about,” said Aaker. The coach says STM has good athletes and their offense is challenging for the Warriors. Aaker says Ryan Wojcik is one of the better players in 11B. Coach Wayne Sullivan’s son is the starting quarterback for STM. “For us it will be controlling the line of scrimmage and playing physical football,” said Aaker. The coach says it will be a huge week of practice.
The weather will be hot so the team will need to concentrate during practice. “Our guys know who we are playing and it is a big game for both programs. It is a game where we will find out where we are at,” said Aaker. The Warriors are hoping to take the next step forward and get better this week.