Winner overcomes obstacles to claim 11B state title Original

VERMILLION, S.D. (KELO) — Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan intercepted a pass in the final minute of the 2019 11B state championship to seal a 21-14 win over Winner. A year later, the same two teams met in this year’s 11B title game.

“Coming into the season, we both knew we were going to be the two best teams in our class (11B). We knew it would be a tough battle because they lost a few good players and we lost a few good players. We knew it would be a battle again, like it was last year,” Winner Senior Sam Kruger said.

“It was almost the exact same game as last, except we hung on and got them, while they hung on and got us last year. It was a great game. We’ve played them now eight quarters. They won three touchdowns to two, now we won three touchdowns to two. We had a first and goal at the one, they’re throwing it for the game winning touchdown at the end. It can’t get any closer back to back years. If we play them again next year, it’ll probably come down to the end again,” Winner coach Trent Olson said.

Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan took possession of the football with just two minutes to play, looking for a touchdown to take the lead.

“We just knew that we had to execute and we’re confident in our defense and we knew, as long as we do what we do, then it’ll end how it’s supposed to,” Winner Sophomore Riley Orel said.

The game came down to the final play as the Seahawks looked for a late hail mary, but Winner’s Riley Orel came up with the pass break up to seal the win for the Warriors.

“They ran that pass and I don’t know, he came out on a wheel. I just read it and I knew I had to hit it (the football) before he got it,” Orel said.

“You never know on a play like that or several plays, you know what I mean. We’ve won before on a tipped pass on a hail mary. Those things can come and get you too. You’re just happy when they work out your way,” Olson said.

Winner claimed their first state title since 2016 and their third state title in the past six seasons, despite having to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s super special, because at the beginning of the season, we didn’t know if we were going to have a season. We all felt very fortunate to get in a full season and the season that we did and come out on top,” Kruger said.

The Warriors finished the season a perfect 11-0, despite having a midseason head coaching change to work around.

“That just tells you how mentally tough they are. Right when everything was happening, you just said ‘goals don’t change, expectations don’t change, nothings going to change’ and it’s because they didn’t let it change and that was the big thing,” Olson said.

“We’re just resilient and we knew, whoever was coaching, we knew that they would teach us what they needed to teach us and we would do what we needed to do to get here,” Orel said.

Click the video player below to see highlights as seen on KELOLAND Sports:

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