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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL

Winner in for a dogfight with EPJ in pursuit of third straight 11B state title

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Winner quarterback Blake Volmer (16) keeps the ball for a run during the Warriors' win over Mount Vernon/Plankinton on Oct. 14 in Mount Vernon.

Winner thrives in big games.

Over the last 15 years, Winner has appeared in nine state championship games, claimed six titles and won 91.2% of its games.

The Warriors boast a 34-game winning streak and back-to-back state championships. In fact, every student-athlete on their roster has ended their season in the state title game.

Winner's senior class will play in its fourth state title game at 1:30 p.m. MT Friday against No. 2 Elk Point-Jefferson.

Head coach Trent Olson said he hopes that championship experience pays off but knows they face a formidable foe in the undefeated Huskies.

“That's just how every kid on the roster has ended every season, which is awesome,” head coach Trent Olson told The Journal. “So you hope that experience pays off, but there's no real guarantee once that game kicks off. It's just a normal football game, but hopefully our kids are ready for the pregame and everything else.”

The Huskies (11-0) dominated opponents all season to reach their first state title game in school history. They've averaged 48 points per game and limited opponents to 4.5 points per game.

Olson said the Huskies look a lot like his team did last season when they finished atop Class 11B.

“They have a ton of upperclassmen, a very experienced team, a very talented team, a very physical team and are very well coached,” he said. “You watch film long and hard to try and find anything to nitpick at, because they look every bit like that of a dominant 11B team.”

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Winner also dominated its competition, winning by an average of 37.6 points per game against a strong slate of opponents. The Warriors scored 44 points per game and allowed 6.6 points per game.

Olson, however, said the season felt like more of a dogfight than a cruise to the Dome.

“We've had to fight a little bit with our schedule, and they've kind of been just running unopposed at this point,” Olson said. “So you hope that if you can get off to a good start, maybe put a little pressure on them, and put them in a situation they really haven't been in all season.”

Offensively, Winner aims to set the tone with a talented backfield. Running backs Aidan Barfuss and Riley Orel already boast previous Joe Robbie awards, given to the MVP of the state championship game.

“They’ve been huge for us,” Olson said. “If we block it well it, should be 6 or 7 yards, and they can go 60 or 70 in a heartbeat.”

Blake Volmer handles quarterback duties for the Warriors and has thrown 10 touchdowns and only two interceptions.

“Blake gives you that real calm influence,” Olson said. “He's an All-State basketball player and a super smart kid and a real natural-born leader. He's come through for us even though we don't throw up much.”

While winning is the standard at Winner, Olson insisted his players are not taking it for granted as they prepare to face EPJ.

“As you watch EPJ’s film and look at their scores, if you can’t figure out that you’re in for a dogfight, then our kids aren’t smart enough,” he said. “This is one of the best teams in 11B that I’ve seen in years and we’re not going to be surprised when we go out and see these guys are good.”

The Warriors and Huskies kick off at 1:30 p.m. MT Friday at the DakotaDome in Vermillion.

Contact Alex Dodd at ADodd@rapidcityjournal.com

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