In the third quarter, Terrell Hall (#4) piles on for defense.
Winhawks Nick Fratzke (#21) bowls over Fridley’s Nate Soto (#9).
Undefeated Winhawks advance to State Semifinals
by BEN MCLEOD
The Winona Winhawks held onto their undefeated record on Friday night in Farmington, when they edged past the Fridley Tigers 17-14 in a late-game battle. In spite of a chilly night, intermittent snow, aggressive wind that blew the ball off the t, and a temporary shortage of hot chocolate, the Winona varsity football team scored early and held off Fridley’s concentrated attacks right up to the final minutes.
The Fridley Tigers put up a more solid resistance than any other team the Winhawks have met this year, but fortunately Winona was able to return injured senior Robert Warren (#28) to the field after he missed the last two games of regular-season play. Head Coach John Cassellius has deployed Warren sparingly in the playoffs, but without his presence in the first half, the Winhawks might have been on even thinner ice than they were. He scored the first points of the game with a messy two-yard touchdown in the first quarter, and pushed for a total of 136 yards. It was a 23-yard pass touchdown just before the end of the quarter that took the ‘Hawks to a comfortable 14-0, thanks to the reliable work of quarterback Riley Bosteter (#10) and his go-to wide receiver Dakota Matthees (#32).
The second quarter was scoreless, a testament to the Winhawk’s stubborn defense. Winona Senior High School record-holder Nick Waldo (#77), entered the game with 7.5 sacks for the year and tacked on another 2.5, with the assistance of sophomore Ethan Prodzinski (#72), who added six tackles and 2.5 sacks to his own record. Sophmore Sam Kanne (#18) piled on three tackles of his own and Nick Fratzke added five tackles. The second quarter looked better for the Tigers, as their defense stuck close to Bosteter, but a heavy ground game and penalties on both sides brought an end to the half with Fridley still not on the board.
Josh Bade (#2) put up Winona’s final points with a 35-yard field goal halfway through the third quarter, but the Tigers were not going out quietly. Fridley quarterback Noah Couwenhoven passed in both of the Tigers scores, including a 64-yard run from Nate Soto to end the quarter 17-14. Tension racked up in the three-point game as fans persevered on both sides against the freezing weather. Winhawks players turned to the crowd and lifted their arms, raising cheers and chants from the bleachers during delays. And there were a lot of delays. Fridley used five time-outs — two in the last two minutes of the fourth — but in spite of a relentless struggle, there was no strategy that would pay off and Fridley was unable to deliver. A crucial mid-air slapdown in the final moments of the game from Fratzke, and cooperative coverage between Fratzke and Terrell Hall (#4) blocked a last-minute catch by Soto near the Winhawks’ end, finally dashing Fridley’s chances. Winona drained the clock with possession, and the Tigers lined up to shake hands with the 2017 Minnesota Class A semifinalists.
Winona meets the 7-1 Academy of Holy Angels on Thursday, November 16, at 7 p.m. at the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis for a berth in the final four.
Photos by Sarah Squires