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Winner powers to a second consecutive Class 11B championship over Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan

Warriors rush for 369 yards in dominant victory

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Winner's Aiden Barfuss (18) slips out of the grip of Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan's Sutton Arend (7) during the Class 11B State Championship on Friday at the DakotaDome in Vermillion. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Matt Gade

VERMILLION — For a second year in a row, there was no stopping the Winner Warriors football team in Class 11B.

The Warriors completed their undefeated season and took down Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan in the state championship game Friday afternoon with a 40-8 victory at the DakotaDome. It is the second straight title for Winner, which has won 24 games in a row and five championships in the division since 2012.

As they’ve done to opponents all year, the Warriors bludgeoned BEE with the run game, rushing 47 times for 369 yards and finishing with 375 yards of total offense. Touchdowns on Winner’s first three possessions — including two touchdowns on the first three plays from scrimmage — were part of the top-seeded Warriors’ accomplishments in building a 32-0 lead early in the third quarter before the Seahawks were able to mount an answer.

“Winning it at this point wasn’t enough for us,” Winner senior Kaden Keiser said. “We wanted to come in and dominate the game and that’s what we did.

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Winner's Achilles Willuweit (58) hits Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan's Kaden Klumb while he's throwing a pass during the Class 11B State Championship on Friday at the DakotaDome in Vermillion. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Matt Gade

It was the Warriors’ second convincing victory of the season over BEE, after Winner won a home matchup 44-0 over the Seahawks on Aug. 27, with the latter sealing the school’s ninth state title since 1981. But Olson said he told his team that none of those points would carry over for the repeat matchup, describing his team’s effort as “business-like” on Friday.

“This was a game that was going to come down to take care of the ball and who could run it better. And we did those things,” Olson said. “(BEE) got some pass plays but it’s tough to be consistent with that.”

“(Winner) played really well. Today, they were the better team on the football field and all credit goes to them,” BEE coach Jeff VanLeur said. “There’s no doubt about it. Our kids came and played hard and left it on the field and that’s all we could ask for.”

It was the third straight year the two teams have met in the state championship game, with Winner claiming the rubber match after the Seahawks won in 2019 and Winner was victorious in 2020.

On Friday, Winner (12-0) got right to work, forcing a three-and-out on defense and with Keiser breaking a 61-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage for the Warriors to go up 8-0 after an Aiden Barfuss rushing two-point conversion. BEE responded by driving inside the Warrior 40-yard line with two passing connections from Kaden Klumb to Jay Storm before the drive stalled and Charley Pravacek bull-rushed his way to block the Seahawk punt, forcing a short field. Two plays later, Aiden Barfuss broke off a 35-yard touchdown run to put Winner ahead by 16 with less than 5 minutes gone in the half.

After another BEE punt, the Warriors were methodical on their next scoring drive, embarking on a 13-play drive — all rushes — that spanned nearly 6 minutes and concluded with a 2-yard touchdown run by quarterback Joey Cole to go up 24-0. The Seahawks were able to get a fourth-down stop before halftime but getting the ball first in the second half, the Warriors had another seven-play drive that covered 67 yards and was capped by Cole’s 1-yard scoring sneak to go up 32-0 with 3 minutes gone in the third quarter.

GALLERY: Winner Warriors defeat Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan for the Class 11B State Championship
Without much success on the ground, BEE (8-4) had to take to the passing game with Kaden Klumb hooking up with Jay Storm. Klumb and Storm connected for passes of 31 and 30 yards in the third quarter to help the Seahawks get on the scoreboard with a 1-yard sneak from Klumb with 6:39 left in the third quarter, making it 32-8.

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VanLeur said the plan was not for the Seahawks to throw as much as they did but the conditions running the ball dictated going to the air.

“We wanted to keep the ball away from them but they really stacked that box and made it tough on us,” VanLeur said. “We had to go to that pass and we moved the ball at times but we couldn’t sustain it enough today.”

The Warriors’ cavalcade of running backs were in prime form on Friday, led by Barfuss’ 126 yards on 12 carries. Keiser finished with 99 yards on 10 carries, with Riley Shippy covering 50 yards on six carries and Cole rushing 11 times for 44 yards, while also finishing 3 of 4 passing for 6 yards. For the game, Winner outgained the Seahawks, 375 to 230.

For BEE, Klumb was 8 for 23 passing for 140 yards with an interception. Storm finished the game with four catches and 101 yards. The Seahawks had 19 rushing yards on 22 carries in the three quarters, and finished with 83 yards on 33 carries. Running back Koby Kayser was held to 40 yards on 14 carries for BEE.

It was BEE’s fifth-straight Class 11B championship game appearance, something that wasn’t guaranteed when the team was 4-3 late in the regular season. But the Seahawks dug deep and summoned another Dome run.

“Their character showed up and we knew our dreams of getting here were not done,” VanLeur said. “Our kids really played hard to get here and there’s a lot of teams that would love to be playing in our spot.”

Scoring summary

First quarter

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W: Kaden Keiser 61 run (Aiden Barfuss run), 10:34.

W: Barfuss 35 run (Barfuss run), 7:06.

Second quarter

W: Joey Cole 2 run (Riley Orel run), 11:23.

Third quarter

W: Cole 1 run (Orel pass from Cole), 8:55.

BEE: Kaden Klumb 1 run (Hunter Bailey pass from Klumb), 6:39.

Fourth quarter

W: Ethan Bartels 9 pass from Cole (Riley Shippy run), 9:35

RUSHING (Att-Yards): BEE: Maddox Kihne 5-45, Koby Kayser 14-40, Taite Klumb 2-10, Macklen Weber 2-7, Dominic Sperling 1-1, Jay Storm 1-0, Team 1-(-1), Kaden Klumb 7-(-19).

Winner: Aiden Barfuss 12-126, Kaden Keiser 10-99, Riley Shippy 6-50, Joey Cole 11-44,

Riley Orel 4-36, Jack Peters 4-14. PASSING (Comp/Att/Int/Yards): BEE: Kaden Klumb 8/23/1/140, Macklen Weber 1/3/1/7. Winner: Joey Cole 3/4/0/6. RECEIVING (No-Yard): BEE: Jay Storm 4-101, Sutton Arend 2-38, Drake Gustafson 1-7, Koby Kayser 2-1. Winner: Ethan Bartels 2-13 Aiden Barfuss 1-(-7).

INTERCEPTIONS (No-Yard): Winner: Blake Volmer 2-0. SACKS (No/Yds): BEE: Jaden Eddy 1-2, Hunter Bailey 1-2. Winner: Kaden Keiser 1-10, Jackson Vesely 1-5, Ashton Klein 2-5, Charley Pravacek 1-3.

Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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