BROOKINGS -- Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan finally has that elusive 11-man football title.
Brady Hawkins passed for 152 yards and three touchdowns to power BEE to its first-ever Class 11B state title on Friday at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium. The Seahawks (12-0) finished as the state runner-up each of the past two seasons, but captured the title this time around with a heart-pounding 21-14 victory over Winner.
“I have never been so happy,” said Hawkins, who was named the game’s MVP and most outstanding back. “We have been playing together since we have been third graders and we have been working for this moment right here and losing the last two sucks and getting this one means the world. I couldn’t be happier.”
The Seahawks captured three Class 9AA state titles earlier this decade, but fell to now-Class 11A Sioux Falls Christian in the title game the past two seasons. That’s what makes this title even sweeter for veteran BEE coach Jeff Van Leur and company.
“This is really special,” Van Leur said. “That taste in our mouth from the last two years, we just couldn’t seem to get rid of that. Then you start hearing about the monkey on your back and ‘You we can’t win the big one.’ ” So it was really special tonight with these kids. They have worked so hard. I give all the credit to them.”
The Seahawks pitched three playoff shutouts leading into the title tilt and their defense sealed this one. After Hawkins fumbled late for the game’s first turnover, the Warriors drove down the field and went deep into BEE’s territory.
“I am hard on myself,” Hawkins said. “That’s the type of kid I am and I knew I made a mistake and the boys got together and we said, ‘Hey, we bend but we are not going to break.’ ”
They definitely did. The Warriors (11-1) moved the ball down to BEE’s 1-yard line, but the Seahawks stuffed four straight running plays as they forced the turnover on downs.
“We gave it all we had to force them to turn it over,” BEE senior linebacker Rylee Schultz said. “It’s just a great effort from both teams.”
The Warriors went to 1,000-yard rusher Trevor Peters, who finished with 123 rushing yards and two scores in the losing effort.
“I give them credit for stopping it,” Winner coach Dan Aaker said. “They probably knew what we were going to run, but I am not going to go away from him and where our power was. We just took our chances and they stopped us. So credit them. It was a h--- of a stop.”
The Seahawks took over on downs with 1:46 left, but Winner called its final two timeouts and forced BEE to punt. The Warriors regained possession with 38 ticks left, but Brady Fritz’s pass was intercepted by Chase Arend to cap the thriller.
“It was a fun game to be a part of and that’s what it is all about,” Van Leur said. “That’s how it’s supposed to end. It came down to the wire and that’s how it’s supposed to happen and that’s what happened tonight.”
The No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup certainly lived up to the hype. The Seahawks finished with 295 total yards, while Winner racked up 275 yards. There were just two penalties and two turnovers. The Warriors had possession of the ball for 26:55, while BEE had it for 21:05.
“Words can’t describe how intense it was and how amazing it was playing in a great facility like this,” Schultz said.
After a tight first half, the action picked up in the third quarter. Hawkins hit Arend for a 38-yard touchdown strike and a 14-8 advantage. Winner answered right back on a Peters 9-yard touchdown run to even the score at 14-14.
Hawkins converted a fourth and inches play on a quarterback sneak early in the fourth quarter. He then connected with Jonah Hofer three plays later on a 33-yard touchdown reception and a 21-14 advantage with 8:30 left.
“He really throws a nice football,” Aaker said. “We had decent coverage. It wasn’t necessarily great, but it wasn’t poor either and he put it right where he needed to and they made catches. You give athletes credit when they make plays.”
The score set the stage for BEE’s defensive stand. Winner needed just two plays to get into BEE’s territory, but it later faced a 4th and 13. Fritz’s pass was broken up by Schultz to keep the lead intact.
After Hawkins had an 85-yard touchdown run called back for holding, he fumbled on the next play and left the door open for Winner to score.
“We knew that was going to be our shot,” Fritz said. “We are going to stick to our guns and try to put it up the middle. They just made a big-time play.”
On fourth down, Eric Gustafson and Brandon Jansen teamed up to stuff Peters for the stop and Arend’s interception sealed it on the next possession.
Winner finished with 286 rushing yards and hit BEE with a heavy dose of running plays in the opening drive, which was punctuated with Peters’ 6-yard touchdown run that took 6:25 off the clock. It was BEE’s first points allowed in the last 14 quarters.
In the second quarter, Peters busted a 48-yard run down to the 19-yard line. But BEE’s defense stiffened and backed up the Warriors down to the 36-yard line. The Seahawks took over after the punt at their own 16-yard line and Hawkins connected with Gustafson (20 yards) and Arend (22 yards) to keep the drive alive. Gustafson’s 7-yard touchdown reception from Hawkins capped off the 84-yard, 11-play drive that lasted 3:28 to score right before halftime to give BEE some momentum.
“This is the funnest game I have ever played in,” Hawkins said. “I had a blast. I had a ton of fun and it was an awesome win.”
W: Trevor Peters 6 run (Ethan Vesely pass from Brady Fritz), 5:35.
BEE: Eric Gustafson 7 pass from Brady Hawkins (Hawkins kick), 00:05.
BEE: Chase Arend 38 pass from Hawkins (Hawkins kick), 9:41.
W: Peters 9 run (run failed), 5:17
BEE: Hofer 33 pass from Hawkins (Hawkins kick), 8:30.
PASSING (C-A-INT-YDS): W: Fritz 1-4-1-(-11); BEE: Hawkins 10-15-0-152.
RUSHING (ATT-YDS): W: Peters 21-123, Sam Kruger 14-74, Fritz 8-49, Phillip Jorgensen 9-42; BEE: Hawkins 15-77, Grant Andrews 6-39, Hofer 10-28.
RECEIVING (REC-YDS): W: Jorgensen 1-(-11); BEE: Arend 4-76, Hofer 2-38, Gustafson 2-27.
DEFENSE: W: Peters 8 tackles, Jorgensen 7 tackles, Landon Thieman 5 tackles, Owen Duffy 5 tackles; BEE: Hawkins 12 tackles, Grant Andrews 10 tackles, Arend 9 tackles, Gustafson 8 tackles.