Warriors Football Season Ends With Loss To Lions

In their first home NCAA Playoff game since 2004, the #12 Winona State Warriors looked to make a statement, and looked to extend their season further.  However, they ran into the top rated passer in all of Division 2 College Football, and saw their season come to an end in a 20-6 loss to #8 Texas A&M Commerce.

Luis Perez, who did not play any High School Football has developed into a legitimate NFL prospect, and showed off his abilities by leading his Lions to two scoring drives in the first quarter.

The Warrior Defense took the field after the WSU Offense was forced to punt on their first drive of the game, and it looked like a defensive battle was in store.  The Lions picked up two first downs, then stalled on the drive, when three plays went for no yards, forcing a 4th down choice inside the Warrior 35 yard line.  The Lions chose to go for it, and Perez kept the ball for an 8-yard gain, short of the yard marker.

Winona could not capitalize on the defensive momentum, and the Lions made them pay.  Perez and the Texas A&M Commerce offense started to click.  Perez completed 6 consecutive passes for 60 yards, capped by a 9 yard strike to Vincent Hobbs for the first score of the game.

Meanwhile, the Warrior offense was stuck in neutral, gaining 0 yards before the next Lion drive.

That subsequent drive saw the Lions mix running and passing on 9 plays, for 61 yards, ending again with Perez to Hobbs, this time for 4 yards and a touchdown.

The Warriors picked up their first First Down of the game on their next possession, which looked like it was headed for a score.  However, Darren Beenken, who hadn’t played since the October 28th Minnesota State Mankato game, threw an interception to Brucks Saathoff near the goal line to extinguish the drive.

The Lions were unable to capitalize on the mistake, and punted, setting up the Warriors with good field position, starting their next drive on their own 33.  The Warriors marched down the field, and put 3 points on the board, thanks to a Carter McCauley 27 yard field goal, to shorten the lead to 14-3.

After Halftime, the Lions got those points back, taking the first possession of the third quarter 34 yards downfield, setting up Kristov Martinez for a 46-yard field goal to make the score 17-3.

Winona State looked to be in line for another scoring drive, but another interception at the 2 yard line halted the drive.  This time, Alex Shillow picked off Beenken, but could not advance the ball after the catch.

Again, the Lions did not turn the turnover into points, and that led to the Warriors next, and final score of the game.  McCauley booted a 26-yard field goal with 38 seconds to play in the third quarter, bringing the Warriors within 11 points again.

After a drive from each team resulted in a punt, the Lions capped the game scoring on a 22-yard kick by Martinez.

Seeing the end of their season on the horizon, the Warriors mounted a drive after the Martinez field goal, and gained 62 yards on 14 plays, setting up a 4th and 1 on the Commerce 18 yard line.  Beenken tried a keeper to get the first down, but came up just short, and the Lions were able to clock the ball and hold on to the 20-6 win.

The Lions topped most of the offensive categories in the game, gaining 456 yards compared to the Warriors 227.  They also had more first downs, 24-16, and were +2 on turnovers.  Most importantly, they kept control of the ball, for almost 35 minutes, compared to 25 for the Warriors.

Darren Beenken was 13 of 35 for 167 yards and 3 interceptions.  He was also sacked 3 times.  Eric Birth led the Warriors in rushing with 60 yards, while Isaiah Frandsen had 4 catches for 71 yards.

Luis Perez went 28-for-41 for 308 yards, 2 touchdowns, no interceptions, and was sacked once.  Carandal Hale rushed 23 times for 106 yards, and the Lions’ spread the ball at receiver.  Michael Wimberly caught 7 passes for 65 yards, Buck Wilson had 4 catches for 95 yards, and Hobbs had 5 catches for 57 yards, and 2 touchdowns.

The Warriors end the season at 10-2, just the 6th 10-win season in school history.  The Lions improve to 10-1, and will move on to face Central Washington in the next round of the Playoffs, on November 25.

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