Warriors Earn A 10-Win Season, Defeating Vikings 52-21
It was over before it started. Offense wins games, defense wins championships. It wasn’t even that close.
Pick your cliché, because all of them fit in Winona State’s convincing 52-21 win over Augustana Thursday night at Maxwell Field at Altra Federal Credit Union Stadium.
The Warriors came into Thursday’s game, looking for revenge against the Vikings, who had broken their hearts the last 2 seasons, by winning games on plays that literally came on the last second. In fact, that prompted Warrior Head Coach Tom Sawyer to use “Last Second” as the team motto for this season.
The Warriors heated up a frigid Maxwell Field on the first play of the game. On the opening kickoff, Augustana chose to kick short, looking to avoid Winona State’s electrifying kick/punt returner Jake Balliu. However, the ball bounced in front of second-line man Zach Olstad, and he let it by him. Balliu didn’t handle the return cleanly, but picked up the ball on the 10-yard line, and promptly returned the kick 90 yards for a touchdown. It was the first Warrior kick return for a touchdown this season, but his third overall return for a score this year (2 punt returns).
Augustana was not deterred early on, following Balliu’s score with one of their own. It took the Vikings just 4 plays and 1:23 to get the equalizer, as Kyle Sadler completed two passes, one to Trevor DeSchepper and Brett Shepley, then completed the drive handing off twice to Caden Quintanilla to tie the game at 7.
The next drive saw Avram Tynes intercept an Owen Burke pass on the 4th play of the Warrior drive, and it looked at that point that fans might be in store for a Heavyweight Title Fight.
Those plans were scrapped 5 plays later, when Nick Pridgeon intercepted a Sadler pass, and returned it 78 yards for a touchdown.
Romario Gayle would get in on the interception party, picking off a Sadler pass on the second play of the next drive, and the rout was on. The Warriors completed a 4-play 34-yard possession after the Gayle interception, capped by a Devon Moore TD run to expand the lead to 21-7.
The Warrior Defense would then get an interception for the third straight Augustana possession when Andrew Spencer stepped in front of the Sadler pass with 7:37 to go in the first quarter. Javian Roebuck completed the ensuing drive with a 6-yard run, and before the Vikings knew it, the Warriors held a 28-7 lead at the end of the First Quarter.
The game slowed a little in the second quarter, as neither offense could sustain a drive. The Warrior defense, though, still kept pounding. On the second Augustana drive of the second quarter, Pridgeon forced a fumble that was recovered by Trey Telez in the endzone for another Warrior score.
Shortly after, Gayle notched his second interception of the game, and the Warrior offense turned it into 7 more points, courtesy of an Isaiah Frandsen touchdown catch, and the Warriors went into the locker room with a 42-7 Halftime lead.
The Third Quarter saw another odd play that worked in the Warriors’ favor. Carter McCauley lined up for a 42-yard field goal try with 12:11 to go, but the kick was blocked. Fortunately, it was blocked into the hands of Warrior holder/wide receiver Justin Bergeron, who then ran 25 yards to pick up a first down. The offense then scored on the next play, as Roebuck scored from 5 yards out for his second touchdown of the day, and the Warriors led 49-7.
Playing for pride, Augustana took control of the 4th Quarter, mostly on the legs of running back Colton Steer. Steer rushed for 2 touchdowns, and 77 yards gained, to put him in positive yardage gained for the game.
Winona State would get one more score, off the leg of McCauley. He booted a 27-yard field goal to make the final score 52-21.
Owen Burke started his second consecutive game at quarterback, for the injured Darren Beenken, but the passing game was somewhat limited in the cold weather. Burke was 6-of-14 for 56 yards, a touchdown and an interception. The rushing game gained 158 yards, paced by 80 from Roebuck.
However, the Warrior offense didn’t need to cut through the cold air, as the defense stepped up to the tune of 4 interceptions, and a touchdown.
It was the 10th win of the season for the Warriors (10-1), which is just the 6th 10-win campaign in 105 years of Warrior Football. All 6 of the occurrences have been under the watch of Tom Sawyer.
The Warriors will now have to wait to learn their fate in the NCAA Playoffs. Teams and seedings will be announced Sunday, November 12th at 4pm.