Seahawks, Warriors clash at the Dome in 11B rematch


VERMILLION -- Winner gets another crack at Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan.

Last year’s 21-14 defeat to the Seahawks in the Class 11B state championship game is still on Winner’s mind heading into today’s 2 p.m. rematch at the DakotaDome. The Seahawks are making their fourth straight championship game appearance.

“It’s nice to have another shot,” Winner coach Trent Olson said. “It’s the team that got us last year, but they’re all special. It wouldn’t matter who we’re playing. We’re playing for a state championship. So few kids get to do that in their lives.”

Strong defenses and an efficient ground attack has led both teams back to a familiar game. The Warriors are making their fourth championship game appearance in the last six years, and this time, can draw from previous game film.

Similar to its semifinal matchup against Sioux Valley, Olson mentioned limiting long touchdowns. He wants the Seahawks to earn their points. Winner allowed five touchdowns of 35 yards or longer during the regular season, but both teams have two shutouts in the postseason. In last year’s meeting, the Seahawks had touchdowns of 34 and 38 yards.


BEE has the playmakers to break long gains. Koby Kayser (1,375 rushing yards / 24 TDs) and Bodie Burnham (964 / 12) pace the ground attack. Kaden Klumb has thrown 12 touchdowns, including seven scores to Eric Gustafson. But it all starts at the line of scrimmage, which opens holes for the Seahawks.

“That’s where the game will be won and lost, as far as I’m concerned,” BEE coach Jeff VanLeur said. “That battle right up front. Whoever can win that the most is going to win the football game.”

Rylee Schultz leads the Seahawks with 82 tackles, while Brandon Jansen and Josh Bartscher both have four sacks. Recording sacks are hard to come by against Winner’s run-oriented offense, but taking down the Warriors behind the line of scrimmage will be key.

Winner has a stable of running backs, as four players received double-digit carries last week. Sam Kruger has 762 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Warriors and Riley Orel rushed for 602 yards and nine scores this season, but quarterback Brady Fritz also is a threat on the ground. He has 464 rushing yards, 447 passing yards and 14 total touchdowns (7 passing / 7 rushing).

“It’s not one player. It’s not one thing,” Olson said. “We have a lot of guys who have run for a lot of yards, scored touchdowns. Not just in blowouts, but in the first quarter of games.”
The many options both teams possess has guided them back to another championship game appearance. However, now both teams have experience on the state’s biggest stage.

“I think it plays huge. Winner the same way. They’ve been there the last year, too,” VanLeur said. “That experience being down there, knowing what it’s all about, the noise and what needs to happen, that plays big in that type of ball game.”

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