Winona upset by Waseca in State Tournament
The Winona Winhawk football team saw their season come to an end, in the opening round of the Minnesota Class AAAA State Tournament, 49-7 to Waseca.
Section 2 Champion Waseca won the coin toss at the beginning of the game, and elected to defer, which put the ball in the hands of the powerful Winona offense. However, possession was going to be key in this game, because the turf at Farmington High School was snowy and icy, and the game-time temperature was a cold 16 degrees.
Section 1 Champion Winona went 3-and-out in their first offensive possession, which unfortunately set the tone for the game. Waseca took advantage of the defensive stop, and a bad punt snap from Winona, and quickly put points on the board. Hayden Groll, the Blue Jays’ 4th leading rusher, but leader in rushing touchdowns, put Waseca in the lead with a 6-yard run with 10:06 to go. Waseca missed the extra point and would have problems converting the rest of the night.
Problems in special teams did not effect Waseca, as their defense stood tall the entire game. On the second Winhawk offensive drive, Waseca forced a Winona fumble, and Waseca capitalized, with a Joe Hagen 8-yard scamper. The ensuing 2-point conversion was missed, and Waseca led 12-0.
Another short offensive drive from Winona led to more Blue Jay points. After taking over, Joe Hagen did the rest on offense. His 2-yard run early in the second quarter pushed Waseca to an 18-point lead.
Undaunted, Winona would grab a little momentum on their next offensive try. Terrell Hall took over at quarterback, and the change stunned Waseca. Hall connected with Ethan Ringo on a long pass to set the Winhawks up in Blue Jay territory. Hall called his own number close to the end zone, and put Winona on the board with a 1-yard run.
While the Winhawk defense would keep Waseca off the board for a few minutes, Hagen and the Blue Jays would not be denied. With just 22 seconds left in the first half, Hagen scored his third touchdown of the game, giving Waseca a 26-7 edge going into the break.
Waseca would pull away in the 3rd quarter. Joe Hagen picked up where he left off, finishing Waseca’s first drive of the second half on a 44-yard run to the end zone to pad the lead at 34-7.
Malik Willingham would continue the frustration with an interception of Nibbelink about 2 game minutes later. Willingham would complete the drive, catching a 16-yard TD strike from Hunter Rodriguez to make the score 42-7 Blue Jays.
Hagen would put an exclamation point on the night with 3:12 to go in the third quarter. Hagen ran in from 73 yards out for the final score of the game, giving Waseca a 49-7 win. Hagen’s big night was unexpected. He had just 596 yards and 9 touchdowns coming into the contest, but scored 5 times, and rushed for 250 yards, taking Waseca to the second round of State for the first time in School history.
Winona (10-1) would see their season come to an end, after making State for the third consecutive year. Waseca (10-2) will make the trip to US Bank Stadium on November 15, to take on SMB (A cooperative team including Summit, Minnehaha Academy, Blake, Hope Academy and St. Paul Academy). SMB is 11-0, after defeating Delano 14-7.
In other State scores of interest, in 9-Man play, Spring Grove (12-0) advances defeating Russell-Tyler-Ruthton 27-26. Spring Grove will play Cromwell-Wright (12-0) on Nov. 15 at 11:30 am.
Caledonia (11-0) advanced in Class AA, beating New Richland-Heartland-Elendale-Genevea 41-0. They will play Paynesville Area (9-2) at 2pm on the 15th.
Rochester Lourdes (12-0) will go to the Bank, playing Pierz (11-0) on Nov. 17 at 2pm.