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Bridgewater-Emery-Ethan Rylee Shultz walks past members of the Winner football team following the Warriors’ 18-14 win over the Seahawks in the 11B State championship game Friday afternoon at the DakotaDome in Vermillion.
Photo by Rodney Haas

Pressure cooked championship
Nov 14, 2020

By Rodney Haas 

VERMILLION — The ability to be calm under pressure. Joe Montana and Tom Brady had it while winning championships, and so does the Winner Warriors.

The Warriors showed it Friday afternoon during the Class 11B state championship game at the DakotaDome in Vermillion.

Leading by four in the final minutes, Winner needed the defensive stop of the season against Bridgewater-Emery-Ethan.

The Seahawks had begun the drive on their own 10-yard-line with 2:25 left, and seven plays later found themselves at the Warriors’ 42-yard-line. Bridgewater quarterback Kaden Klumb was looking more like Brady and Montana leading a fourth quarter comeback in the Super Bowl — hitting receivers on the sidelines and getting out bounds.

Klumb had led his team down to the Winner 24-yard-line and nine seconds left on the clock with one play left.

Needing a touchdown, Klumb’s pass was heading toward Koby Kayser but instead Winner’s Riley Orel broke it up.

Defensive stop? Check.

Keeping calm in pressure situations? Check.

State champions? Check.

“Composure is a big thing for us. That was the talk for us at halftime. You have to keep it even keel,” Winner coach Trent Olson said.

However, under the most pressure packed moment in high school football — nine seconds left and a state championship on the line, it wasn’t surprising the moment didn’t faze the Warriors. After all, they’ve been there before.

Against McCook Central in the Class 11B playoffs, Winner was ahead 8-0 before pulling out to a comfortable win in the second half. The same could be said in the Warriors’ semifinal game against Sioux Valley.

“We’ve been in control so many games early but the last three have been great games,” Olson said. “We were only up 8-0 against McCook but our guys stayed calm and I said, ‘this is what real football is like. You don’t show up and win 50-0.’”

Preston Norrid gave Winner the early 6-0 lead in the second quarter with a 4-yard run. Bridgewater-Emery-Ethan responded when Klumb had a 1-yard scamper and Rylee Schultz added the extra point for a 7-6 lead.

The Warriors would retake the lead just before halftime when Riley Orel had a 4-yard run and a 12-7 halftime lead.

Winner would increase its lead to 18-7 when Brady Fritz had the 1-yard quarterback keeper, but Bridgewater would once again respond with 1-yard run by Bodie Burnham.

“It was almost the exact same game as last year,” Olson said of the Warriors’ 21-14 loss to the Seahawks in last year’s Class 11B championship game.

Orel led Winner with 102 rushing yards on 20 carries while Fritz had 41 yards on 11 carries and threw for 57 yards — completing 2 of 5 attempts.

Klumb ended the afternoon throwing for 55 yards for the Seahawks — completing 9 of 11 passes and added nine carries for 27 yards on the ground.

Winner missed a chance give itself some breathing room with a field goal late in the fourth quarter. It was 3 of 6 points the Warriors missed because of the lack of a kicker on the team. A four-point win that could’ve been a 10-point victory.

“We’ve tried before,” Olson said of putting out flyers around town for a kicker. “We haven’t had a kicker since we had a foreign exchange student from Germany. That’s the last kicker we’ve had.” 


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