No. 2 Winner shuts out No. 5 WagnerWINNER — In a battle of ranked teams, Winner jumped ahead early and never looked back as it defeated Wagner 35-0 in Class 11B high school football action Friday.
By: Kevin Pottebaum, The Daily Republic
WINNER — In a battle of ranked teams, Winner jumped ahead early and never looked back as it defeated Wagner 35-0 in Class 11B high school football action Friday.
Winner finished its regular season 8-0, while Wagner fell to 5-2.
The No. 2-ranked Warriors got up 14-0 before the fifth-ranked Red Raiders’ offense ran a play.
Winner got the ball at its own 35 to begin the game and went on an eight-play drive for a touchdown before recovering a fumble on a short kickoff that barely made it to midfield and going on another eight-play drive for a touchdown.
“That really set the tone and it was big for us,” Winner coach Dan Aaker said. “It wasn’t an onside kick, we were just trying to pooch it because we were concerned about their returners.”
The defense for the Warriors took over from there. The team allowed just 99 yards of offense from the Red Raiders.
“The defense played good all day,” Aaker said. “We gave up a couple of big plays, but it was a solid defensive effort.”
Wagner head coach Jason Knebel said his team was able to improve as the game went along, but never fully got in rhythm.
“We came out a little flat and they jumped on us,” he said. “They’re a good team, but execution-wise, we can do a lot better than that.”
In Winner’s first two scoring drives, the team was able to run the ball effectively and didn’t throw a pass until Tanner Fritz hit Kray Krolikowski for an 11-yard score for the team’s second touchdown.
Fritz didn’t throw the ball much, but he was efficient when he did. He finished 4-for-5 passing for 74 yards and two touchdowns.
“They choose when they want to pass and they sucked us up on the run,” Knebel said.
Aaker said he knew Fritz has the ability to put up big numbers in the passing game, but doesn’t need to with Winner’s successful rushing attack that was led by Kyle Bertram with 76 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Ben Connot had 67 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, while Trace Meyer added 54 yards on nine carries. Connot also had three receptions for 53 yards and a touchdown.
“It’s disheartening when teams are running on you and you can’t stop it,” Aaker said. “We like to pick our spots to throw and get some big passes on timely plays.”
Fritz said he’s OK with the rushing attack — he recorded one touchdown on the ground in the win — but still enjoys airing it out from time to time.
“Obviously I like pass, and it feels pretty good when the line protects and I have time to get the passes out there,” he said.
Along with fighting for a Southeastern South Dakota Conference title, Friday’s matchup had big playoff implications. With the win, the Warriors locked up the top spot in Region 3.
“There was a little added emotion trying to finish the regular season undefeated,” Fritz said. “Now we have to get right back at it and get ready for the grind of the postseason.”
While Winner has a bye in the last week of the regular season, Wagner will look to bounce back as it takes on Chamberlain Thursday in Chamberlain.
“We have to come Monday and work hard,” Knebel said. “Our guys understand that we didn’t execute like we’re capable of and we have to get back on the practice field and prepare.”
Wagner’s offense was led by David Kocer’s 54 yards rushing on 12 carries. Noah St. Pierre hauled in four receptions for nine yards. Dylan Brunsing completed 5 of 14 passes for 19 yards.
Win: Ben Connot 18 run (Garrett Gronlund kick)
Win: Tanner Fritz 11 pass to Kray Krolikowski (Gronlund kick)
Win: Fritz 6 run (Gronlund kick)
Win: Fritz 25 pass to Connot (Gronlund kick)
Win: Kyle Bertram 4 run (Gronlund kick)