Defense was a big part of Winner’s 14-0 win over West Central Friday night in Hartford.
Big stops were huge for the Warriors who are 2-1 on the season.
Winner has not beaten West Central since 1987 and the Trojans have beaten the Warriors nine consecutive times.
On the road, Winner remains undefeated as they have not lost a road game since 2007.
“For us to stop them gave us the confidence and spark that we needed,” said Winner coach Dan Aaker.
West Central had a big punt return and got to the Winner 20 yard line and then picked up a first down. The Trojans were first and goal at the 9 and the Warriors held them to one yard in four plays.
“Stopping them was huge,” said Aaker . “That was a big confidence boost for our guys and they showed some toughness,” explained the coach.
Then, Winner built on that momentum and went on a 92 yard scoring drive in the second quarter. Carter Brickman threw a 30 yard touchdown pass to Riley Calhoon for Winner’s first score. Phillip Jorgensen added the 2 point conversion and Winner was up 8-0.
“Carter did an excellent job of getting the pass off because he had a West Central guy in his face,” said Aaker.
Winner led 8-0 at the half.
The Warriors stopped West Central on fourth down three different times. The Warrior forced West Central to jump off sides three times in the game.
One of the plays of the game was when West Central drove to the Winner 36 yard line in the third quarter and had a third and 2. Winner stopped them.
Winner regained control of the ball and had five successful running plays by Phillip Jorgensen who picked up 7 to 8 yards at a crack. Jorgensen was back in action after being injured in the first game of the season against Sioux Falls Christian.
As Jorgensen moved the Warriors closer to the goal line, Brickman took the ball in from 2 yards out for a touchdown. Trevor Peters ran the ball in for the 2 point conversion and Winner led 14-0.
Aaker said the team felt good knowing they were up by two touchdowns but knowing they had to finish the game.
“Our defense continued to step up after West Central had a drive inside the Warrior 30 late in the fourth quarter. We were able to stop then on fourth down,” said Aaker.
The Warriors had a total of 227 yards of offense including 201 rushing yards.
Jorgensen was the leading rusher with 102 yards followed by Calhoon with 34 and Ty Bolton with 33.
Shea Connot and Matt Smither both had 15 tackles. Levi McClanahan added 12, Bolton, 7; Oscar Pravecek and Colton Schroeder, 6 each and Justus Gregg, 5.
“Overall, it was exactly what we needed. This team needed to prove to themselves they can refocus and play every play. To go into West Central and get a win is not easy,” said Aaker.
“It was not so much the win but the way we played and responded to pressure moments. This is the first time for 48 minutes our guys focused on every play. This is something we have to build on as we move forward.”
The Warriors will have a bye week next week and will not play on Sept. 8. The next game for Winner will be Sept. 15 when they host Valentine, Neb.
Aaker likes having the bye week at this time in the season. “We had to rush through a lot of fundamentals to get ready for the first game. We can take a step back and build on the fundamental aspect of what we are doing. It is a break between two really big games, West Central and Valentine.”
The coach says Valentine is good team and Winner was their only loss during the regular season last year.
“This will be a another great challenge for us.”
The coach says the bye week also sets up great for the junior varsity team. They played a game on Tuesday and they will play on Saturday and Monday.
“We need to take advantage of this bye week in multiple ways,” said Aaker.