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Winner standout reaches D-I goal

WINNER -- In less than two weeks, Krockett Krolikowski's life changed in a big way. The Winner High School standout lineman received his first Division I college football offer from South Dakota State University on June 27 and two days later, he ...

Winner's Krockett Krolikowski brings down Tri-Valley running back Landon Freeman during the Class 11B state championship football game in November 2015 at the DakotaDome in Vermillion. Krolikowski committed earlier this week to play collegiate football at South Dakota State University. (Matt Gade/Republic)
Winner's Krockett Krolikowski brings down Tri-Valley running back Landon Freeman during the Class 11B state championship football game in November 2015 at the DakotaDome in Vermillion. Krolikowski committed earlier this week to play collegiate football at South Dakota State University. (Matt Gade/Republic)

WINNER - In less than two weeks, Krockett Krolikowski's life changed in a big way.

The Winner High School standout lineman received his first Division I college football offer from South Dakota State University on June 27 and two days later, he received an offer from in-state rival South Dakota.

Then on Wednesday, the senior-to-be announced via Twitter that he'd accepted the scholarship offer from SDSU, nine days after getting word that the Jacks wanted him on their team.

"It did happen pretty fast but it felt like home," Krolikowski said about his decision. "SDSU has a great coaching staff and the respect runs from the top down. You can tell that they have a good coaching staff, their facilities are nice and they have it going for them. I think they have a bright future and I'd like to be a part of that program."

The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Class 11B all-state player said he always had goals of becoming a Division I football player.

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"I sure didn't set my goals any lower than that," Krolikowski said. "I just kept working hard with my teammates and it finally came to be."

Last year, Krolikowski was a captain for the state champion Winner Warriors, which went undefeated and won the Class 11B title game in convincing fashion by defeating Tri-Valley 45-6.

Winner head coach Dan Aaker said the fact Krolikowski was a captain for the Warriors as a junior immediately stands out.

"That doesn't happen here very often, so that shows the leadership skills that he's had from the get-go," Aaker said. "He's pretty talented, too."

Aaker added Krolikowski will be a three-year starter after this upcoming season and mentioned he made an impact on the varsity team as a freshman as well.

"He's been a huge anchor for us on both sides of the line," said Aaker, who pointed out Krolikowski is a strong in the classroom as well. "He's pretty intense. For his size, he's awful quick. He's got tremendous feet and hands. He's got a motor that keeps going for every single snap."

As a key blocker for the Warriors, Krolikowski helped pave the way for an offense that set multiple 11B state championship game records. Against Tri-Valley, Winner racked up 510 yards of total offense, which set the record for an 11-man title game. Winner also set the record for first downs in an 11B championship game with 22 and posted the most points in an 11B title game with 45.

With a senior season ahead of him, Krolikowski has already blocked for an offense that has ran for more than 6,000 yards and scored more than 900 points.

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While he's made a big impact on the Winner offense, Krolikowski has been just as important for the Warrior defense. Krolikowski set the tone up front for Winner, which only allowed 26 points in 12 games last year.

"I enjoy both sides, but I lean more towards defense; that's just the type of guy I am," said Krolikowski, who added the Jackrabbits would like to use him as defensive tackle. "I like defense better."

Aaker called Krolikowski "solid" on both the offensive and defensive sides of the line, but wasn't surprised to see SDSU want to use him as a defensive tackle.

"On the defensive side, that's probably an easy decision after watching him play," Aaker said. "But who knows how it'll play out because sometimes they move a guy from offense to defense or from defense to offense. He'll be a solid contributor wherever they put him."

Krolikowski said the decision to join SDSU next year felt "like a big weight off my shoulders."

"It's nice to get it out of the way," Krolikowski said. "Now I can focus on getting better every day and winning another state championship."

Following in the footsteps of his brother, Krockett is the second Krolikowski to receive a scholarship to play Division I football. Krockett's older brother, Kray, attended the University of South Dakota before transferring to the University of Sioux Falls. Krockett said he's learned a lot from his older brother on the process of jumping from high school football to college football.

"It's definitely a big jump and I have to be prepared for that," Krolikowski said. "It's hard work, I understand that. If you enjoy playing football, it's not a job."

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Warriors eyeing repeat in Class 11B

With his future set, Krolikowski said he's excited for the football season to begin. Heading into the season, the Winner Warriors will be heavy favorites in Class 11B after losing only six seniors to graduation. Coming off a season in which Winner outscored its opponents 594-26, Krolikowski said the team needs to remain focused on the task at hand.

"We just need to keep working hard and keep the same goal in mind," Krolikowski said. "We're trying to set history in Winner and be the first team to win back-to-back state titles. We all have that goal in mind and we're going to work for that as hard as we can."

Practices can officially start Aug. 11 and the team will open its season at Mobridge-Pollock on Aug. 26.

"We can't overlook anybody," Krolikowski said. "Last year, we came in prepared every week. We prepared for every team like they'd be the best team we'll play. It definitely helped and we didn't get lazy, we kept working harder. We just need to get out there and get it rolling again."

Aaker said Krolikowski's leadership will play a big factor for Winner this season in its pursuit of a repeat.

"So far, we've had a good summer and the kids are working hard in the weight room," Aaker said. "They're excited to get going and we're almost only a month away. The kids are as excited as anyone to get the pads on."

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