Winner wins 11B title 13-6 over Tri-ValleyVERMILLION — Another tipped pass put another state champion smile on Dan Aaker’s face.
By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic
VERMILLION — Another tipped pass put another state champion smile on Dan Aaker’s face.
Staring into a familiar end zone late in the fourth quarter, the Winner High School head coach saw Tanner Fritz on the ground clenching the ball after hauling in a tipped interception. The play sealed the Warriors’ 13-6 win over Tri-Valley Friday to claim the 11B state championship at the DakotaDome.
“It happened so fast,” said Aaker, whose team won the 2009 11B title over Tri-Valley by connecting on a tipped, Hail Mary pass that ended the game in the same end zone as Friday’s victory. “I didn’t even see the actual tip.”
Isiah Old Lodge — who caught a game-winning, 33-yard TD pass for Winner in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s semifinal against Flandreau — stepped in front of Mustangs quarterback Brett Page’s pass on second-and-goal from the 5-yard line with 16 seconds left on the clock. The ball fluttered in the air, landing perfectly into the hands of Fritz, also the Warriors’ starting quarterback.
“I have a great amount of trust with Isiah,” said Fritz, who added he and Old Lodge have been playing football together since elementary school. “I’ll throw it up to him any time, and he got one for me there.”
After Winner, which scored 13 third-quarter points to rally from a one-touchdown halftime deficit, got the ball at the 20-yard line, the offense kneeled once to finish the season perfect, going 12-0 with a title for the second time in the past four years.
The Warriors, who claimed the school’s fifth state football title, got big defensive stands all game and held the Mustangs to 130 yards of total offense. Tri-Valley was shut down inside the Warriors’ 20-yard line three times, the first time on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line late in the first quarter to keep the game scoreless.
Winner held Tri-Valley from scoring again with 3:47 left to go in the game on the 6-yard line to keep its seven-point lead. After punting, Winner allowed a few big pass plays from Page to Dominick Burggraff down the middle of the field, only to end the drive with Fritz’s third interception of the season, the biggest one of his career.
“I was hoping someone would be there, and Tanner was,” Old Lodge said. “It was the best feeling in the world. I couldn’t believe it.”
Burggraff caught a 4-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal with 7:07 left in the first half for the Mustangs’ lone score.
But Ben Connot, who was named the game’s Joe Robbie MVP and outstanding back, tip-toed down the sideline in Winner’s first drive in the third quarter for an 11-yard TD. On Tri-Valley’s next possession, Trace Meyer forced a fumble that was picked up and returned 62 yards by Old Lodge to put the Warriors up 13-6.
“They rose up defensively when they needed to,” Tri-Valley coach Steve Bazata said. “We were able to move the ball pretty well, but when it came down to us needing a yard for a first down or to punch it in, we couldn’t do that. That was the difference in the game.”
Connot finished with 14 carries for 94 yards, Old Lodge had two catches for 32 yards and Fritz — who was talking with Dakota State football coach Josh Anderson after the game — was 5-of-8 passing for 61 yards.
“It was intense, nerve-wracking,” Connot said, describing the game. “We had a goal that we wanted to accomplish and no one was going to stop us.”
NOTES: Tate Novotny was named the game’s outstanding lineman. He had seven tackles. … Dan Sudbeck, an official from Dimock, received the Doug Koester’s award at halftime. The award is given to an official for his work with South Dakota High School athletics. Sudbeck was also an official in the 11B title game. … Tri-Valley’s Sam Mader was helped off the field because of injuries twice. Mader, who played through shoulder and ankle problems, had a team-best 78 yards on 16 rushes.
WINNER 13, TRI-VALLEY 6
Winner 0 6 0 0 — 6
Tri-Valley 0 0 13 0 — 13
TRI—Burggraff 4 pass from Page (kick failed), 7:07.
WIN—Connot 11 run (Gronlund kick), 9:10
WIN—Old Lodge 64 fumble return (kick failed), 6:42.
RUSHING—WIN, Connot 14-94, Bertram 10-44, Meyer 6-9, Fritz 5-(minus 5). TRI, Mader 16-78, Otto 15-75, Koopman 18-39, Page 7-28, Van Asselt 3-12, Brown 1-3.
PASSING—WIN, Fritz 5-8-0-61. TRI, Page 3-7-1-39, Otto 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING—WIN, Old Lodge 2-32, Bertram 1-21, Connot 1-5, Meyer 1-3. TRI, Burggraff 3-39.