Winner looking to maintain home-field advantage in 11B semifinal against McCook Central/MontroseDan Aaker has lost two home playoff games in 10 years as coach of the Winner High School football team.
By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic
Dan Aaker has lost two home playoff games in 10 years as coach of the Winner High School football team.
His last home playoff loss was a year ago Saturday, when the Warriors fell to Mobridge-Pollock 31-14 in the Class 11B semifinals.
Since that loss, Aaker’s team has gone 10-0, including home playoff victories over Wagner and Canton.
At 6 p.m. today, Aaker — who has a career 82-27 record with Winner — leads his team in a game against McCook Central/Montrose in the Class 11B state semifinals in hopes of another home playoff victory.
“The atmosphere on the home field isn’t something you can replicate on the road,” he said Friday afternoon. “It’s nice to host a playoff game, and it sure doesn’t hurt. But I don’t know how huge of an advantage it is.”
Winner is putting its undefeated record up against the Fighting Cougars, who have one home playoff win this year and one playoff victory on the road.
“It’s always tough playing on the road compared to at home,” MCM coach Ryan Evans said.
McCook Central/Montrose defeated Flandreau in the first round and went on the road to beat Groton on Tuesday.
“We got there way early and tried to get into our own pre-game mode as if we were at home,” Evans said of the Groton game. “We plan to do that again (today).”
Evans and Aaker agreed that both teams play a similar type of football. The coaches said that they both have run-first offenses and stout defenses.
The Fighting Cougars (9-1) average 277.8 rushing yards per game. Senior Andy Kappenman has scored 21 touchdowns this season and averages 134 rushing yards per game. Quarterback Gavin Gassman and running back Dominic Blindert, both seniors, are also threats to run the ball. The two have combined to rush for 11 touchdowns this season.
Winner averages 299 rushing yards and 35.6 points per game.
Kyle Bertram leads the Warriors in total rushing at 894 yards, but Ben Connot leads the team in rushing touchdowns with 15. Connot has 712 rushing yards on the year. Seven Winner players have rushed for a touchdown this year.
Tanner Fritz, a junior, took over at the quarterback position midway through the year when starter Nathan Naasz went out with an injured collar bone. In seven games, Fritz has thrown for 378 yards and three touchdowns on 14 completions.
“Our kids are excited about playing someone like us,” Evans said.
Winner returns six starters on both sides of the ball and has only remaining starter from the school’s 2010 state championship team, senior lineman Austin Moser.
“They’re going to come in here very confident,” Aaker said of MCM. “But there’s something to be said about defending the home field, and we’re going to try and take a little pride in that.”