BROOKINGS -- Two Class 11B powers will collide today.
When Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan and Winner meet at 3:30 p.m. today, it will pit two teams that have combined to play in the last four 11B state championship games. They took turns eliminating each other during playoff runs in 2016 and 2017, but today’s meeting will be the first between them for a state championship.
“We both have been one and two, vice versa back-and-forth all season long and that’s kind of how it’s suppose to be is get one and two at the championship game,” BEE coach Jeff Van Leur said. “It will be a fun game to be a part of.”
Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan (11-0) has finished as the Class 11B runner-up the past two seasons, while Winner (11-0) won titles in 2015 and 2016. It’s the only matchup at the Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium this week that will feature two undefeated teams.
“It’s two undefeated teams and two teams that have had pretty good success and similar when you look at scores and things that have played out,” Winner coach Dan Aaker said. “It’s going to be fun we get to end with this.”
The similarities are aplenty between the Seahawks and Warriors. Both teams rely on running the ball and playing stingy defense. BEE averages 43.9 points per game, while giving up just 8.4 on defense. Winner scores 43.8 points a contest and gives up just 9 on defense.
“A lot of similar styles and especially philosophies,” Aaker said. “We are both probably run-oriented teams. We kind of want to play solid defense and I am pretty impressed with the three shutouts they put up in the playoffs. I think the line of scrimmage will be critical for both teams.”
Van Leur sounds eerily similar to his coaching counterpart when breaking down the matchup.
“I think we match up pretty well,” Van Leur said. “We have a lot of similarities between the two teams. We like to pound the football at people and they like to come right back and pound it. It’s going to be a physical game right up front.”
There are plenty of playmakers on both sides. BEE quarterback/linebacker Brady Hawkins does it all for the Seahawks. He’s rushed for 961 yards and 15 touchdowns, while also throwing for 779 yards and 14 touchdowns. He’s also racked up 100 tackles and four interceptions on defense.
“I don’t feel like you can stop him 100 percent,” Aaker said. “But you just hope to limit big plays from him. They want him obviously to be the guy to make the plays when they need it and everybody knows that. We just have to try to do the best defensively on him.”
Jonah Hofer is another dangerous weapon out of BEE’s backfield, rushing for 1,107 yards and 18 touchdowns. He’s also caught four receiving touchdowns and 255 receiving yards. Chase Arend has hauled in 238 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Grant Andrews has compiled 434 rushing yards and six touchdowns, while recording 130 tackles, four sacks and two interceptions on defense.
For Winner, Trevor Peters paces the ground game with 1,175 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns. Quarterback Brady Fritz engineers the offense with 458 passing yards and six touchdowns, while also rushing for 288 yards and three more scores. Fullback Phillip Jorgensen has 746 rushing yards and 11 scores. Defensively, Landon Thieman has 41 tackles.
“We need to keep those kids contained and be able to control a little bit of that line,” Van Leur said. “We know it’s going to be physical on both sides and we need to match that physicality.”