Purist football fans got what they paid for at the class 11B state championship game, which featured two traditional double wing, very run-heavy, and very hard-hitting teams. That didn’t mean that the Winner Warriors, who last visited Vermillion for a state title game in 2009, and the Tri-Valley Mustangs, who came into the game as the class 11B defending champions, didn’t wing the ball around a bit.
Tri-Valley opened the proceedings on offense, and took the ball on their own 14 yard line. They moved the ball methodically running the ball nine times and 34 yards before their opening drive stalled at their own 49 yard line, but the drive took just over five minutes off the clock. The Mustangs would punt, and manage to pin the Warriors at their own 7 yard line.
Winner ran three times into the tough Tri-Valley defense, and quarterback Tanner Fritz was sacked on third down by Logan Koopman at his own 1-yard line. Isiah Old Lodge was sent in to punt from under his own goal post. Tri-Valley held the ball for seven plays and moved the ball back to the Winner 1-yard line, but the Warriors’ defense held firm on fourth-and-goal and stopped Mustangs’ quarterback Brett Page on a sneak play to keep the game scoreless with 1:20 left in the first quarter.
Winner again could not move the ball, and opened the second quarter with a punt from their own 8 yard line. Tri-Valley took 10 plays to move the ball 33 yards and into the Winner end zone for the only scoring play of the first half. On that scoring play, it was again fourth and goal for Tri-Valley, and this time Page tossed a pass to the right side of the end zone to Dominick Burgraff for the touchdown with 7:07 left in the second quarter. The extra point attempt banged off the left upright and out, and Tri-Valley took a 6-0 lead into halftime, and all of the offensive momentum.
To open the second half, Tri-Valley attempted an onside kickoff that rebounded off one of the Winner players and out of bounds, giving the ball to the Warriors at their own 44. Winner then made adjustments, and used a combination of runs by Kyle Bertram, Ben Connot and Trace Meyer to drive the ball inside the Tri-Valley 20 before Connot took an option play to the left for an 11-yard touchdown run. The extra point was good, and with 9:10 left in the third quarter, Winner had taken a 7-6 lead.
Tri-Valley took the ensuing kickoff and drove to the Winner 39 yard line, but Page fumbled the ball on a run to the left, which was recovered on a bounce by Old Lodge, who returned the ball 60 yards for another Winner touchdown. The extra point was blocked, and Winner now had a 13-6 lead with 6:42 left in the third quarter.
Winner pressed their momentum advantage by forcing a three-and-out, then driving the ball 55 yards to the Tri-Valley 28 yard line, but Fritz was sacked on fourth down by Logan Otto and Tri-Valley took the ball on their own 36 with 10:43 to play. The Mustangs held the ball for just over seven minutes, totaling 15 plays, but again the Winner defense held tough on fourth and two from the Winner 6-yard line, not allowing Otto across the first down marker, and Winner took over on their own 5-yard line with 3:47 to play.
Winner couldn’t run down the clock and punted from their own 14-yard line. Tri-Valley took the ball at the Winner 41-yard line with 1:37 to play and one timeout left.
Page hit Burgraff for 23 yards on the second play to get to the Winner 13-yard line. Two plays later Page hit Burgraff again over the middle for 14 more yards to set up third and 1 from the Winner 3-yard line. Sam Mader ran for the first down on the next play, but Tri-Valley had to use their final timeout with 21 seconds remaining after Koopman lost yardage on first and goal.
On the next play, the pass from Page was tipped and intercepted by Fritz, giving Winner the 13-6 win and their second state championship in four years. Connot was named the Joe Robbie MVP with 14 carries for 94 yards and Winner’s lone offensive touchdown.
SCORE BY QUARTERS 1 2 3 4-FINAL
TRI-VALLEY 0 6 0 0- 6
WINNER 0 0 13 0-13
RUSHING: TRI-VALLEY: Mader 16-78yds-0TD; Otto 15-75-0; Koopman 18-39-0; Page 7-28-0; Van Asselt 3-12-0; Brown 1-3-0. WINNER: Connot 14-94-1; Bertram 10-44-0; Meyer 6-9-0; Fritz 5-(-5)-0.
PASSING: TRI-VALLEY: Page 3-7-39-1TD-1INT; Otto 0-1-0-0-0. WINNER: Fritz 5-8-61-0-0.
RECEIVING: TRI-VALLEY: Burgraff 3-39-1TD. WINNER: Old Lodge 2-32-0; Bertram 1-21-0; Connot 1-5-0; Meyer 1-3-0.