Warriors doing their best to navigate through pandemic

Cinder blocks, trash cans and Zoom.

It’s not exactly the spring the Winona State University football team expected, but it represents the current reality, as it and the rest of the sports universe navigate through a holding pattern amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. It’s a holding pattern that calls for the shuttering of college campuses nationwide.

Classrooms, academic and athletic facilities — normally bustling — now sit in an odd silence.

“It’s really weird,” WSU coach Tom Sawyer said. “Your whole life is surrounded by a hundred kids at a time, staff, people on campus to now standing at home looking at the river. It’s a little different, but we are trying to make the most of it, that’s for sure.”

Making the most of it means getting acquainted with Zoom — a video conference meeting service. With the majority of players back in their hometowns, the service has been a way to establish a new normal. That means holding video conferences with over 100 people at times — something they tried for the first time last week.

“The first 10 minutes was just guys picking on each other,” Sawyer said. “But that was really healthy to see everybody smiling because everybody’s in a bad situation. … That interaction is really important.”

Zoom is vital as Winona State works through installing plays and schemes. It allows position groups to work with one another in front of their respective coaches or with Sawyer and watch film together.

“Honestly, it’s actually been better than I thought it’d be,” said senior quarterback Owen Burke, who is home in Lakewood, Colorado. “Once we get into those meetings, it’s pretty productive or at least as efficient as it can be.”

From a football perspective, Sawyer isn’t too worried, although the Warriors’ spring game — originally scheduled for April 25 — is canceled. Sawyer’s No. 1 concern, he says, is the isolation the pandemic has forced onto some and everything that potentially comes with it. That’s part of the reason why the coaching staff helped start an email chain.

The players, meanwhile, have run with it. Emails containing ‘quarantine updates’ such as what they have been up to and how they have been passing the time fill their inboxes. They also have been sending inspirational videos, quotes, book passages and other powerful motivational messages.

“The biggest thing is keeping our communication with kids up so they don’t suffer from depression and anxiety,” Sawyer said. “There is a lot of pressure on kids right now. Just being alone. … You have 100 guys, that’s 100 different situations.”

So far, so good.

“The coaches are doing a good job of keeping us in the loop with everything and (understanding) where we’re at, what we can do,” redshirt sophomore Clay Schueffner said. “Just doing the best they can ... to get us better mentally. And then it’s kind of on our shoulders to get us ready physically for the upcoming season.”

Finding a spot to work out has also been a bit of a challenge.

Schueffner is lucky. He has a friend deployed in the military that lives down the road with a workout area that features crossfit training equipment along with other weights. Others aren’t so fortunate, but they have shown some ingenuity.

At Burke’s house in Winona, they turned trash cans into a makeshift squat rack in their backyard. Others made a trip to to buy pipes and cinder blocks to make bench presses or to do curls. Whatever it takes to get their workouts in.

“Guys just have to get creative to do what we can to get better,” Schueffner said. “It’s not a time to blame others and make excuses. It’s the time to press forward and really show that we want to be successful.”

Sure, they miss spring ball.

Burke said, “it’s one of the best things about playing college football,” because you are “in the football grind as much as humanly possible.” It’s a vital time in a player’s development in that it allows everybody a chance to play, a chance to put the plays into action, a chance to develop team chemistry, and it’s a way to let loose during a long offseason. But right now this is the position — they, along with the rest of college football — currently find themselves in.

“We all wish we were there in spring ball,” Burke said. “It’s tough for the seniors. This is our last spring in Winona along with we have a lot of young guys on the team that really benefit from spring ball. That’s a bummer, but we’re not the only team dealing with it. We’re just trying to make the most of it.”

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Warrior Football Announces 2020 Recruiting Class

"We are extremely excited to announce our 2020 signing day class. This class is made up of 37 players from seven different states including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota, Georgia, and Ohio. It has players that were all-state selections, state champions, and team captains in their high school careers. This group is not only one of the most talented classes that we’ve ever brought in, but is also group of high character kids that come from winning programs." 

-Head Coach Tom Sawyer

Meet the players below. Click HUDL or the @ above each player's photo in the press release to see their highlight reel and twitter profile respectively.

Ortiz named 2019 Don Hansen Football All-American

The Don Hansen Football Committee has released its 2019 Don Hansen NCAA Division II All-America Team, naming Winona State University's Paul Ortiz a Second Team All-American.

Ortiz, a kicker from Chula Vista, California, earns All-America honors for the first time to cap his senior season. He recorded a new career high in field goals made (20-for-24) while setting a new Winona State single-season record in the category. Ortiz ranked second in the nation this season in field goals made/game (1.82).

Ortiz also handled the punting duties for WSU in 2019, averaging 38.82 yards/attempt with eight punts sailing over 50 yards and 17 of those landing inside the opponent 20-yard line.

Ortiz was named First Team All-Conference (kicker & punter) in 2019, earned First Team All-Region accolades by the D2CCA and Don Hansen Football Committee on top of his now All-American season.

2019 Don Hansen All - Americans

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Four Warriors named to Don Hansen All-Super Region Football

The Don Hansen Football Committee has announced its 2019 Don Hansen NCAA Division II All-Super Region Four Team, honoring four members of the Winona State University Warriors.

Paul Ortiz (First Team Special Teams), Sam Santiago-Lloyd (Third Team Offense), Nick Pridgeon (Third Team Defense) and Isaiah Hall (Third Team Defense) were each named to the All-Super Region Four Team. Hall was a Second Team All-Region selection in 2018 and went on to earn Don Hansen All-American Honorable Mention status.

Ortiz, a First Team All-Conference performer at kicker and punter in 2019, was also named to the D2CCA All-Super Region First Team last month. The senior recorded a career high in field goals made (20-for-24) with a long of 49 yards this season. Ortiz's 20 converted field goals also set a new WSU single-season record. His 1.82 field goals/game ranked second in the nation.

Santiago-Lloyd, was also a First Team All-NSIC recipient in 2019. The junior running back rushed for career highs in yards (956) and touchdowns (8). He ranked third in the NSIC in yards/game (95.6) and fourth in total rushing yards and touchdowns. Santiago-Lloyd racked up 1,116 all-purpose yards and nine TDs despite missing the final two games of the season.

Pridgeon, the 2019 NSIC Preseason NSIC South Defensive Player of the Year, concludes his stellar career with All-Region honors for the first time. The three-time All-NSIC performer returned from a season-ending injury in 2018 to lead the Warriors with a career-high 70 tackles (37 solo) while tallying 1.5 sacks and 12.0 TFL. Pridgeon also recorded two interceptions and two forced fumbles.

Hall, a First Team All-NSIC Defense and Second Team All-NSIC Special Teams selection, excelled at both his cornerback and kick return duties. The junior recorded 48 tackles (30 solo), one force fumble, two interceptions and eight pass break-ups. On special teams, Hall led the NSIC and ranked 13th in the country in kickoff returns (28.0 yards/return). His 585 kick return yards are a new career best and were highlighted by a 98-yard touchdown return.

Winona State finished the 2019 campaign with a record of 8-4 after playing in the Mineral Water Bowl. The Warriors have won at least eight games in four straight seasons and qualified for the postseason in two of the last three years.

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Warriors fall short in high-scoring Mineral Water Bowl

Following a three-week wait, the 54th annual Mineral Water Bowl got off to a fast start on Saturday afternoon at Tiger Stadium between Winona State University and the University of Nebraska-Kearney. Unfortunately for the Warriors, it was the UNK Lopers who put 15 points on the board in the first six minutes and led wire-to-wire in a 50-33 decision.

Winona State's defense entered the season finale allowing just 16.6 points/game, but was gashed by the Lopers' option offense in the loss. UNK rushed for 427 yards and six touchdowns, including 240 yards on the ground in the first half to take a 36-19 advantage into halftime. Loper quarterback TJ Davis accounted for 144 of those rushing yards and four scores while throwing for another touchdown as he attempted just six pass attempts.

The Warriors did force a pair of takeaways, including an interception by Cole Monckton and a fumble recovery by Alex Evans. Winona State concludes the year with 29 forced turnovers – a mark that ranks seventh in the country this season. The Warriors' 21 interceptions this season were the fifth-most among all NCAA Division II teams.

Saturday's tilt started with a three-and-out by the WSU offense, preceding UNK's lightning-quick scoring drive on the other end. The Lopers needed just two plays, a pair of rushes, to find the end zone on the feet of Davis who scrambled 54 yards for the first points of the game. UNK converted its two-point attempt, and the same sequence would follow. The Warriors next possession went backward, and Davis rushed for 39 yards on two plays for another scored and a 15-0 lead.

Winona State's next offensive possession lasted 14 plays and covered 57 yards, but stalled in the red zone and the Warriors settled for three points on a Paul Ortiz field goal.

UNK ran just two plays once again on its third possession, but this time resulted in a forced fumble recovered by Evans. The Warriors then showcased their quick-striking ability with a 23-yard touchdown run by Miguel Benjamin.

The Lopers kept their foot on the gas and struck again to close the action-packed first quarter with a 22-9 advantage.

Winona State opened the second quarter by picking up a pair of critical third downs and once again cut into its deficit with a 51-yard pitch and catch from Owen Burke to Sawyer Maly. Ortiz closed the frame with another field goal to keep the Lopers within striking distance after UNK found the endzone two more times in the quarter for a 17-point halftime lead.

After yielding 36 points in the first half, the Warrior defense answered in a big way after the break by blanking the Lopers in the third quarter. Winona State put the lone puts of the frame on the board with a 33-yard touchdown catch by Tyler Knutson.

UNK would dash the Warriors' hopes of a comeback in the fourth quarter with bookend scoring drives – both covering over 75 yards.

Burke, who hadn't played under center since Week 10, showed little signs of rust, throwing for 284 yards and three touchdowns in the setback. Maly hauled in a pair of catches for 89 yards and a score while Jake Balliu recorded a team-high five catches for 68 yards.

Clay Schueffner led the defense with 10 tackles, capping a big year that saw the redshirt freshman recorded a team-best 76 tackles.

Winona State closes the 2019 campaign with a record of 8-4 after reaching the postseason for the 11th time in team history and 10th under head coach Tom Sawyer. The Warriors have won at least eight games in each of the last four season. 

Original article from WSU Athletics


Ten Warriors earn 2019 NSIC Football All-Conference honors

Additional Information

The Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) has announced its 2019 Football All-Conference Teams, including 10 members from the Winona State University Warriors. The complete list of Warrior award winners is listed below.

All-NSIC South First Team Offense: Sam Santiago-Lloyd

All-NSIC South First Team Defense: Isaiah Hall, Nick Pridgeon

All-NSIC South First Team Special Teams: Paul Ortiz (K & P), Jake Balliu

All-NSIC South Second Team Offense: Carter Berlin, Jake Balliu

All-NSIC South Second Team Defense: Michael Gomez, Devon Moore

All-NSIC South Second Team Special Teams: Isaiah Hall

All-NSIC South Honorable Mention: Cam Gavin, Cole LaLiberty

Santiago-Lloyd, a first time All-NSIC recipient, rushed for career highs in yards (956) and touchdowns (8). The junior ranked third in the NSIC in yards/game (95.6), and fourth in rushing yards and touchdowns. Santiago-Lloyd racked up 1,116 all-purpose yards and nine TDs despite missing the final game of the regular season.

Hall was an All-Conference First Teamer for Defense and Special Teams a year ago. The junior recorded 48 tackles (30 solo) one forced fumble, two interceptions and eight pass break-ups. On special teams, Hall led the NSIC and ranked 14th in the country in kickoff returns (27.9 yards/return). His 585 kick return yards are a new career best, and were highlighted by a 98-yard touchdown return.

Pridgeon, the 2019 NSIC Southern Preseason Player of the Year, is a three-time All-NSIC honoree, earning First Team honors for the first time. After returning from a 2018 injury, the redshirt senior led the Warriors with a career-high 70 tackles (37 solo) with 1.5 sacks and 12.0 TFL. Pridgeon recorded two forced fumbles and two interceptions.

Ortiz earns NSIC All-Conference honors for the first time in his career. The senior led the league in field goals made (18-22) and had a career-long 49-yarder this season. Ortiz also handled the punting duties in 2019, posting an average of 38.98 yards/punt with eight attempts sailing over 50 yards and 17 times pinning the opponent inside the 20-yard line.

Balliu, a three-time All-Conference recipient, is named to the First Team for the second time. The redshirt junior also returned from a season-ending injury in 2018 and ranked second in the NSIC and 16th in the country in punt return average (12.0). Additionally, Balliu led Winona State in catches (45), receiving yards (569) and touchdowns (7) while ranking sixth in the NSIC in TD catches.

Berlin, despite missing the final five games due to injury, repeats as an All-Conference First Team member.

Gomez, another Warrior who missed the 2018 campaign with an injury, becomes a two-time First Team recipient. The redshirt junior led WSU in sacks (5.0), ranked second in TFL (10.5), and third in total tackles (49) while recording one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

Moore earns All-Conference Second Team honors for the second straight year while also having his 2019 season cut short due to injury. The junior captain recorded 28 tackles (16 solo) with 3.0 TFL in five games.

Gavin, another Warrior who missed 2018 with an injury, bounced back for a great year in 2019 to earn his first All-NSIC nob. The redshirt junior totaled 47 tackles (34 solo), had a team-best nine pass break-ups, and was second in the team in interceptions (3).

LaLiberty continued to battle through an injury-plagued career to earn honorable mention status for the second straight season. The redshirt junior started the first eight games of the 2019 campaign before having his year cut short due to injury.

Winona State (8-3) will continue its 2019 season into the postseason when the Warriors take on the University of Nebraska-Kearney in the Mineral Water Bowl on Saturday, December 7 at 12 p.m.

Read original article from WSU Athletics

WSU to play Nebraska-Kearney in 2019 Mineral Water Bowl

Winona State University has been selected to play in the 2019 Mineral Water Bowl on December 7th against the University of Nebraska-Kearney. The Warriors are 2-1 in previous Mineral Water Bowl appearances, having last played in the game in 2012.

Kickoff is set for 12 p.m. on Saturday, December 7 at Tiger Stadium in Excelsior Springs, Missouri in the 54th annual Mineral Water Bowl.

Fans are encouraged to purchase tickets at the Winona State Athletics Box Office prior to traveling to the game. Tickets cost $10 and will be available on Wednesday at 8 a.m.

Winona State went 8-3 in the regular season, reaching the eight-win plateau for the fourth straight season. This is the Warriors' second postseason appearance in the last three years after reaching the NCAA Playoffs in 2017. Overall, Winona State is making its 11th postseason appearance.

Nebraska-Kearney finished the regular season 6-5 in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA). This is the 12th postseason appearance in the 113-year history of the UNK program. The Lopers only other bowl trip came in 1955 when then-Nebraska State Teachers College beat then-Northern State Teachers College, 34-13, in the Botany Bowl.

The Warriors and Lopers have met once previously with Winona State recording a 50-34 victory in 1994 played at the old Metrodome in Minneapolis.  

For more information on the 2019 Mineral Water Bowl, click here.

Additional game and media coverage details will be announced in the coming days.

Read original article from WSU Athletics




Vikings spoil Senior Day, Warriors’ NCAA Playoff hopes

Saturday afternoon at Altra Federal Credit Union Stadium opened full of optimism as Winona State University honored the 19 members of its 2019 senior class and prepared for a clash against Augustana University in a matchup that pitted two regionally-ranked teams fighting to stay alive in the NCAA Playoff hunt.

Unfortunately, the day ended on a sour note for the Warriors as the Vikings engineered a come-from-behind victory in the final minute of play to oust the home team, 26-25. Augustana registered its game-winning points with 41 seconds remaining on the clock after a controversial no-call on the Vikings' go-ahead touchdown score.

The teams traded the lead three times in the final frame in which senior John Rumpza connected with Jake Balliu for a go-ahead touchdown strike to flip a one-point deficit into a 25-20 Warrior lead with 3:09 left to play. Augustana answered on the ensuing drive with a quick first down before being faced with a fourth-and-11 against the stout Winona State defense.

The Vikings, who also had their backup quarterback under center, nabbed the vital first down by inches to stay alive, and three plays later, the game-winning 30-yard pass sailed into the endzone. The Warrior defense pressured Zach Masoli on the play, as they had done all day long, forcing the quarterback out of the pocket to unleash his victorious pass in what appeared to be past the line of scrimmage. Despite Winona State's objections, the play stood and Augustana prevailed with the triumph.  

WSU led by a 10-0 count in the first quarter, but that hardly told the story of how the back-and-forth affair endured from the opening kick to the final whistle. Saturday's pivotal tilt between the No. 7-ranked Vikings and No. 9-ranked Warriors in the Central Region featured five lead changes and was a one-possession game for 55 of the 60-minute contest.

It was far from a perfect game by the Warriors, who were limited to just one offensive first down in the first quarter and three total in the first half, but Winona State's defense and special teams made it a ballgame and trailed by the slightest of margins at halftime, 17-16.

Reigning NSIC Defensive Player of the Week, Nick Pridgeon, broke the scoring seal when the senior recorded an 85-yard interception return for the game's opening touchdown. A quick defensive three-and-out later saw Paul Ortiz drill his first of four field goals to pad the WSU lead to 10-0. Augustana answered with a tidy three-play, 72-yard touchdown drive, setting up the neck-and-neck battle from there.

After a Warrior three-and-out on offense, Ortiz punted which resulted in a forced fumble by Tyler Anderson that was scooped up in Viking territory by Romario Gayle. Ortiz cashed in the turnover with another field goal to pad the Warrior lead at 13-7 at the end of the first quarter.

Augustana proceeded to leverage a 10-3 second quarter to pull ahead by one point at halftime. Ortiz's 27-yard field goal stood as the score in the third quarter which led to the photo-finish in the fourth.

Rumpza performed admirably in emergency duty as starting quarterback Owen Burke went down midway through the first quarter after a Viking sack. The senior went 17-for-31 and threw for 182 yards with one touchdown in what was eerily similar to Rumpza's heroics in the 2018 finale when he was pressed into duty and rallied the Warriors for a win against Concordia-St. Paul. However, Saturday's story had a different ending.

Anderson led Winona State's receivers with five catches for 71 yards and Balliu caught six passes for 53 yards and a score. The ground game was the difference in the outcome as Augustana rushed for 236 yards compared to just six for WSU. In total, the Vikings out-gained the Warriors in yardage, 550-188.

Cam Gavin and Clay Schueffner paced the Warrior defense with 10 tackles apiece while Pridgeon added nine along with a forced fumble to his impressive stat line.

Despite the setback, Winona State's postseason hopes are not completely dashed as the Warriors still have one game remaining and could qualify for the Mineral Water Bowl. WSU travels to Concordia-St. Paul next Saturday for the finale and a 12 p.m. kickoff at Seafoam Stadium.


Warriors' streak reaches five, retain Sledge

The Winona State University defense burrier Southwest Minnesota State for a season-high seven sacks while the Warrior offense continued to hum in a 41-13 stampede of the Mustangs on Saturday afternoon at the Schwan Regional Event Center.

Winona State (7-2) continued to pad its postseason resume with its fifth straight win overall. SMSU falls to 3-6 after going winless at home in the 2019 campaign.

The victory ensured The Sledge, sponsored by Big Athletics/Adidas, would return to Winona for the fourth straight year in the annual battle's fifth year of existence. Senior linebacker Nick Pridgeon was awarded the game's individual MVP Award after a monster day that included 12 tackles (2.5 TFL) and 1.5 sacks.

Saturday's tilt marked the first time this season the Warrior defense, which leads all Division II teams in interceptions (17), failed to force a turnover. That didn't prevent the swarming unit from leaving its stamp on the game as seven different players tallied at least half a sack – led by Michael Gomez (2).

Offensively, Winona State gained 451 total yards, including 175 on the ground. Sam Santiago-Lloyd produced 140 yards and two scores for his third straight outing over 100 yards rushing. The junior has already rushed for a career-best 950 yards and eight touchdowns this season.

Since their last loss on September 28, when the Warriors were stymied for just six points against nationally-ranked Minnesota State, Winona State has averaged 36.6 points over its current five-game winning streak. The Warriors are outscoring their opponents, 183-73, over that span.

Winona State broke open Saturday's contest with a 21-point outburst in the third quarter. The Warriors led 7-0 after one quarter and took a 14-6 lead into halftime as both teams scored in the final two minutes of the second quarter.

Owen Burke connected with Jaylen Schleicher for a 54-yard strike as the second frame clock ticked under one minute. That scoring drive was set up by a big defensive stop that saw the Warriors stuff the Mustangs twice on 3rd-and-4 at the WSU 25-yard line.

SMSU received the ensuing kickoff with just 46 seconds remaining in the first half but was able to drive 60 yards over five plays to find the endzone for the first time. The Mustangs missed the PAT which preserved a 14-6 WSU lead at the break.

A 51-yard Isaiah Hall kick return opened the third quarter and set the tone for the second half blowout. Four plays later, Santiago-Lloyd bullied his way into the endzone for the second time to pad the WSU lead at 21-6.

John Rumpza took over under center for the Warriors in the second half and hooked up with Schleicher for a 22-yard pitch and catch midway through the third frame. Schleicher, a sophomore tight end, registered a career-best 76 receiving yards and two scores. Jake Balliu led the receiving core with five catches for 90 yards.

Landon Jacobson capped the Warriors' big third quarter with a rushing touchdown and Johnny Chamberlain also scampered into the endzone in the fourth quarter.

Redshirt freshman linebacker Clay Schueffner continued his solid play of late, posting 11 tackles (1.5 TFL), half a sack and one pass breakup. Gomez was behind the line of scrimmage all day with eight tackles, including 3.0 TFL.

The Warriors return home on Senior Day next Saturday for a game with huge playoff ramifications against Augustana University. WSU was ranked No. 9 in this week's Super Region Four and Augie was No. 7. The top seven seeds in each region reach the NCAA Playoffs. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. on Saturday, November 9 at Altra Federal Credit Union Stadium.

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Ortiz named NSIC Special Teams Player of the Week

BURNSVILLE, Minn. – Winona State University's Paul Ortiz has been named the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) Football Special Teams Player of the Week.

The senior kicker connected on one of two field goal attempts, drilling a season-long 49-yarder in the Warriors' 38-17 win over St. Cloud State. Ortiz went 5-for-5 on PATs. He also averaged 41.5 punt yards on four attempts, including a 50-yard boot and one punt landing inside the 20.

Ortiz becomes the second WSU player this season to earn NSIC Special Teams Player of the Week honors – joining Isaiah Hall.

The Warriors (6-2) have won four straight and travel to Southwest Minnesota State this weekend for the annual "Battle for the Sledge" game. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. on Saturday, November 2.

Read full article from WSU Athletics

NSIC Release


Winona State ranked No. 9 in first Super Region ranking

The first of three NCAA Division II Football Super Region Polls has been released on Monday, tabbing Winona State No. 9 in Super Region Four.

The Warriors are ranked behind fellow NSIC schools Minnesota State Mankato (No. 2), Augustana University (No. 7) and Sioux Falls (No. 8).

Super Region Four is made up of 41 teams from the NSIC, Lone Star Conference (LSC), Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) and Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC). The top seven teams from each of the four super regions will advance to the NCAA Playoffs, with the No. 1-seed earning a first-round bye. 

Winona State (6-2) has won four straight games entering the final three contests of the regular season.

The Warriors last reached the NCAA DII Playoffs in 2017 and hosted the opening round as the No. 4 seed.

The remaining Super Region polls will be released on November 4 & 11 leading to the NCAA DII Football Playoff selection show slated for Sunday, November 17.

Winona State returns to the gridiron on Saturday, November 2 to take on Southwest Minnesota State in Marshall, Minnesota for the annual "Battle for the Sledge" game.

Read original article from Winona State Athletics

Warriors handle St. Cloud State

Junior quarterback Owen Burke completed 17 of his 25 passes for 236 yards and three touchdowns and junior running back Sam Santiago-Lloyd rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries to lead the Winona State football team to a 38-17 victory over St. Cloud State on Saturday in Winona.

The Warriors (6-2, 6-2) have now won four straight games. They have won each of the last three games by double digits.

Burke and Santiago-Lloyd got Winona State’s offense going on the game’s opening possession. The two combined for 92 yards as the Warriors went nearly the length of the field and took an early seven-point lead on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Burke to redshirt junior wide receiver Jake Balliu.

The Huskies (3-5, 3-5) scored on the ensuing possession, but Winona State struck twice in the second quarter. Santiago-Lloyd punched one in from 1 yard out, and Balliu caught a 13-yard TD just before half to put the Warriors up 21-10 at the break.

Winona State led by at least 11 points for the remainder of the game.

The Warriors’ defense and special teams got in on the action, too. Winona State intercepted St. Cloud State Dwayne Lawhorn twice in addition to blocking a punt, which it recovered for a touchdown.

The Warriors’ Paul Ortiz was 1 of 2 on his field goal tries; he made a 49-yarder.

Winona State is back in action when it travels to Southwest Minnesota State (3-5, 3-5) next Saturday. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.

Read original article from Winona Daily News


Santiago-Lloyd, Warriors rush past Bemidji State

Junior running back Sam Santiago-Lloyd exploded for a career-best 231 rushing yards with a pair of touchdowns to lift Winona State University to a crucial 27-14 road win at Bemidji State University on Saturday afternoon. The Warrior defense intercepted Beaver quarterback Emmett Enright a staggering five times, and blanked the home team over two quarters, to keep WSU's postseason hopes alive and well.

Winona State improves to 5-2 with its third straight victory while sending one of the top teams in the NSIC North to matching record of 5-2. Bemidji State's only other loss this season came to then-No. 12 Minnesota Duluth.

Santiago-Lloyd's rushing effort stands as the fifth-highest total in program history as he eclipsed 200 yards on the ground for just the 16th time in the Warrior record book. The bruising back carried the ball a career-high 39 times and averaged 5.9 yards/carry.

Defensively, Richard Azunna, Cam Gavin, Romario Gayle, Nick Pridgeon and Clay Schueffner each recorded interceptions of Enright. Gavin and Gayle both tallied their third picks of the season while Schueffner recorded a career-high 12 tackles for the Warriors.

Jake Balliu and Isaiah Hall, who returned from injury, combined for 93 total return yards, and Paul Ortiz was good on both field goal attempts while adding 280 punt yards (40 yard/average) to complete Winona State's victorious three-phase attack.

The Warriors never trailed on Saturday as Hall returned the opening kickoff 33 yards to set up Owen Burke and the WSU offense. Burke needed just three plays to cover 67 yards and immediately put the Beavers on their heels with a 47-yard touchdown strike to Tyler Anderson.

Bemidji State knotted the score late in the first quarter before Ortiz drilled a 35-yard field goal attempt early in the second frame to put the Warriors back in front. Defense reigned supreme over the remaining 14 minutes of the second quarter and well into the third before Ortiz connected on his second field goal try for a 13-7 WSU advantage.

Santiago-Lloyd crossed the goal line for the first time late in the third quarter as the Warrior lead swelled to 20-7 before the home team made it a ballgame with a nine-play 83-yard drive to open the fourth quarter which slashed the Warrior lead at 20-14.

Still leading by six, Schueffner's fourth-quarter interception halted a potential go-ahead Beaver scoring drive and set up Santiago-Lloyd's second touchdown scamper of the day to account for the final score of 27-14.

Winona State went 4-for-4 in scoring opportunities inside the red zone against the country's best red zone defense.

Despite being sacked a career-high six times, Burke completed 50 percent of his passes as Balliu led the receiving core with four catches for 54 yards.

The Warriors return home to Altra Federal Credit Union Stadium next Saturday for their final matchup with an NSIC North foe in St. Cloud State University at 1 p.m.

Read original article from Winona State Athletics

Warriors cap off homecoming with blowout victory over Minot


The Winona State football team’s offense capped off WSU homecoming with plenty of fireworks on Sunday.

The Warriors averaged over nine yards a play, recording nearly 500 total yards of offense to dismantle Minot State 49-3 at Altra Federal Credit Union Stadium. The game was postponed to Sunday after a winter storm made travel impossible in North Dakota.

Owen Burke got the offense going quickly when he found receiver Jake Balliu for a 27-yard score to finish off a 5-play, 57-yard drive to open up the game.

It was the first of two touchdowns for Burke and Balliu. The second came on the Warriors first possession of the second half when Burke found Balliu for an 8-yard score to make it 35-3. Burke finished 12 of 16 for 162 yards and two touchdowns while Balliu caught four passes for 65 yards and two touchdowns.

It was also a great game for the Winona State rushing attack. The Warriors tallied 280 yards on 37 carries (7.6 YPC). Sam Santiago-Lloyd led the way with 98 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. He made it 14-0 with a 15-yard run in the first quarter and made it 28-3 on a one-yard run late in the half.

Winona Senior High graduate Dakota Matthees caught his first touchdown in a Winona State uniform when he hauled in a 49-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback John Rumpza. It was the third career catch for the redshirt freshman.

Defensively, Winona State held the Beavers (2-4, 2-4) to 255 total yards on 63 plays and forced two turnovers — a fumble and an interception. 

The Warriors have now won two in a row and will look to make it three when they travel to Bemidji to take on Bemidji State (5-1, 5-1) at 1 p.m.

Read original article from Winona Daily News


Isaiah Hall named NSIC Special Teams Player of the Week

Winona State University's Isaiah Hall has been named the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) Football Special Teams Player of the Week. The junior earns the award for the first time in his career.

Hall returned the opening kickoff of Winona State's 28-26 victory at MSU Moorhead on Saturday 98 yards for a touchdown. His 29-yard punt return late in the fourth quarter also set up the Warriors' game-winning field goal. Hall totaled 174 combined return yards in the game.

Hall's 98-yard kick return stands as a new career long and the touchdown was his first on special teams.

Hall, a dual threat, earned 2018 All-NSIC First Team honors for his work on defense and special teams last year. The Minneapolis, Minnesota native was also named a 2018 Don Hansen All-American Honorable Mention.  

Winona State returns to the gridiron on Saturday, October 12 for its Homecoming Game. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. against Minot State University at Altra Federal Credit Union Stadium.

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Warriors survive rollercoaster ride

From Winona Daily News

MOORHEAD, Minn. — The fourth quarter of Winona State’s 28-26 NSIC football victory over MSU Moorhead on Saturday looked more like it was being played at an amusement park than on the football field at Scheels Field at Alex Nemzek Stadium.

It was a wild ride of a rollercoaster with ups, downs, twists and turns and the final twist went the Warriors’ way.

Paul Ortiz finally gave WSU the lead for good as he made a 35-yard field goal with 46 seconds to play. And Michael Gomez salted it away for the Warriors stripping the ball from MSUM quarterback Matthew Plasterer on a sack and allowing WSU to just kneel for the victory.

After trailing for all but 14 seconds of the first half, the Dragons climbed out of the hole to take a 26-23 lead on a 1-yard plunge up the middle by Ty Jochim with 9 minutes to go. And then things got wild.

Veteran WSU return man Jake Balliu fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving MSUM the ball right back at the Warriors 24. Three plays later — after a sack of Plasterer by Gomez — WSU linebacker Joe Perhats grabbed his second interception of the game and returned it 46 yards back to the Dragons 34.

After a 22-yard drive stalled out at the 12-yard line, Dragons defensive lineman Derek Porozinski blocked a 29-yard field goal try by Ortiz. And MSUM took over at the 21.

The Dragons went three-and-out on their next drive and lined up to punt from the WSU 20. The snap flew over the punter’s head and out the back of the end zone for a safety, making it a 1-point game 26-25 with the Dragons needing to kick the ball back to the Warriors.

Blake Ochsendorf kicked a boomer that was covered beautifully by his coverage team and it appeared the Warriors were going to start the drive at their own 31. But the punter was offside. They lined up to kick again — this time from the 15 rather than the 20 — and he booted a wobbler that bounced at the 50-yard line where Isaiah Hall picked it up off a bounced and took it back to the Dragons 24. It was Hall’s second long return of the game after returning the opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown.

Two holding penalties moved the Warriors back out of field goal range to the 44, but WSU quarterback Owen Burke found Balliu cutting across the middle of the field for a 26-yard completion on second-and-30. The Dragons stopped WSU running back Landon Jacobson for no gain on third down and Ortiz came out for the game-winning kick.

The Warriors built up their first-half lead with Hall’s kick return touchdown, a 10-yard pass from Burke to Balliu, and a pair of Ortiz field goals.

Plasterer made it a one-score game for the Dragons with a 5-yard run on first-and-goal from the 5 with 4:15 remaining in the third. He bootlegged out to his right, looking to throw, but kept it and sprinted for the right pylon before diving in for the score. A pass to Grady Bresnahan on the two-point try was off-target and the Warriors kept the lead 20-18.

Neither team was able to run the ball successfully as the Warriors averaged 3.3 yards per attempt and the Dragons averaged 1.3. Jacobs carried the load for the Warriors with 22 carries for 68 yards as Sam Santiago-Lloyd left the game with an injury early on.

Tyler Anderson had five catches for 101 yards for the Warriors. And Burke was 14-for-23 for 220 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

Plasterer — a true freshman making just his second start in place of injured QB Jakup Sinani — passed for 349 yards for the Dragons.

The Warriors (3-2, 2-2), are back in action on Saturday as they host Minot State at 2 p.m. for Homecoming.

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Photo Credit: WSU Athletics


Congratulations, Brian Hynes!

WSU announces 2019 Athletic Hall of Fame Class

Winona State University is pleased to announce its 2019 Athletic Hall of Fame Class. This year's inductees are: Wade Bergner (cross county/track & field), Brian Hynes (football), Lisa Dobie (volleyball), Terra Halron (softball), Katie (Kramer) Krueger (women's soccer), and Zach Malvik (men's basketball). The 2019 Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place on Friday, October 11 as part of Homecoming Weekend.

Bergner (1988-92) set and still owns three Winona State distance records – the 10,000m, the 5000m and the marathon. He was also a member of two record-setting relay teams. Bergner was a four-time NAIA national qualifier and a 1991 NAIA All-American (second place in the marathon). He was the 1989 NIC 3,000m conference champion. Bergner was a five-time NIC All-Conference recipient, and a member of the 1988 and 1990 NIC cross country conference championship teams. The 1988 team went on to win the district championship and finish 12th at the NAIA National Championships.

Hynes (2000-05) led the NCAA in receiving yards/game (129.2) in 2005. That season he was a Harlon Hill Finalist and named an All-American by five different publications. Hynes was a two-time All-NSIC recipient at wideout. His name is still scattered throughout the Winona State football record book, including ranking second in all-time receptions (172) and all-time reception yards (3,062). His 17 touchdown receptions in 2015 also rank second in single-season history to date. Hynes was a member of five NSIC conference championship teams, helped lead the Warriors to the Mineral Water Bowl twice and the NCAA Division II Playoffs three times.

Dobie (2004-07) is the Warriors' all-time leader in assists (5,031), ranks third in aces (145) and eighth in digs (1,409). She also owns the top two single-season records for assists. Dobie was named First Team All-Conference as a senior in 2007 and was a four-time All-Academic recipient. Her 2007 team was the first in program history to earn NCAA DII regional ranking.

Halron (2006-09) played in the most games on the diamond in WSU history and has the records to show for it. She ranks third all-time in hits (267), second in doubles (61), third in triples (15) and 12th in career batting average (.351). Halron set the single-season program records for hits (94) in 2009 while batting .423 as a senior. She is a two-time NFCA All-Region recipient and a 2009 First Team All-American. Halron's 2009 team stands as the only in program history to win the NCAA Super Regional and advance to the World Series. She was also a member of three NSIC championship teams.

Kramer (2002-05) was one of the best goalies in Warrior soccer history. In 2005, she was named to the ESPN All-District Team while earning First Team Academic All-American status. Kramer was the 2005 NSIC Tournament MVP, allowing just one goal over three games, as the Warriors won the tournament title. She ranked nationally in multiple save categories over her career each season and ranks fifth all-time in program history in saves (167). Her 10 total goals allowed in 2005 rank fourth in in single-season program history. Kramer was a member of two regular season and two conference tournament championship teams.

Malvik (2002-07) becomes a two-time Winona State Hall of Famer after he was also inducted in 2018 as a member of "The Run" which included the Warriors' 2006-08 teams. Currently the assistant coach of the WSU men's basketball team, Malvik ranks second all-time in assists (549), third in scoring (1,971) and fourth in made field goals (706). He was the 2007 NCAA Regional MVP en route to earning All-American honors that season while leading the Warriors to their second straight national championship game. Malvik and the Warriors won the 2005-06 NCAA DII Men's Basketball National Championship and compiled Winona State's historic 57-game winning streak that still stands today as the longest in NCAA DII Men's Basketball history.

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Warriors back on track with shutout win over Upper Iowa

FROM WSU ATHLETICS - Winona State University had a lot to prove on Thursday night at Altra Federal Credit Union Stadium, and the Warriors answered the call.

After three shutout quarters in the season opener against Wayne State two weeks ago, the Warrior defense looked vulnerable in a road loss at Sioux Falls just five days ago. Winona State's defensive unit proceeded to silence the murmurs on a short week by blanking Upper Iowa University, 28-0.

On the other side of the ball, Sam Santiago-Lloyd not only rushed for one score with a career-best 131 yards, but the junior running back threw the Warriors' first touchdown pass in the opening quarter of the rout.  

Both teams went three-and-out on their opening drives before WSU broke the scoring seal. Santiago-Lloyd took a pitch from Owen Burke and looked to the endzone where he found sophomore Ethan Wittenburg for the wideouts' first career touchdown reception at the 9:33 mark of the first quarter.

The Warriors and Peacocks possessed the ball for 30 minutes apiece in the affair with Upper Iowa running seven more plays than the home team. However, Winona State out-gained UIU, 334-261, and had the luxury of a short field for seemingly the entire night thanks to the relentless Warrior defense. WSU also owned a 3-1 advantage in the turnover battle.

Burke bounced back from a three-interception game at Sioux Falls with an efficient night by completing 62 percent of his passes with one touchdown. The junior quarterback's scoring strike came late in the first quarter on a 10-yard pitch and catch to Tyler Anderson as Winona State padded its lead to 14-0.

Defense on both sides took over in the second frame before the Warriors crossed the goal line once again late in the quarter. Landon Jacobson capped a six-play 80-yard drive with a touchdown run to give WSU a 21-0 lead right before halftime.

With the outcome still up for grabs entering the second half, neither team scored in the third quarter. The result was no longer in question though when the Warrior defense reminded its faithful that they've ranked inside the nation's top 10 in takeaways in each of the past two seasons for a reason. Romario Gayle intercepted Upper Iowa's Myles Herrera early in the fourth quarter, which the offense quickly converted into a touchdown, and redshirt freshman Clay Schueffner tallied his first career interception later in the frame to finalize the shutout.

In a night of firsts and career highs, Santiago-Lloyd broke free for a 59-yard touchdown scamper following Gayle's interception – a new career long for the bruising running back.  

On special teams, it was redshirt freshman Sean LaPlante (punter) and true freshman Dmitri Shpak (kicker) who also made their presence felt in the contest. LaPlante totaled 259 punt yards on seven attempts, including a long of 45 yards, with three landing inside the 20-yard line. Shpak handled the kickoff duties and went 4-4 in PATs. Upper Iowa had a pair of missed field goals in the loss.

Following a pair of modest games to begin the year, the Warriors' captain linebackers really made a difference on Thursday night. Preseason NISC South Defensive Player of the Year, Nick Pridgeon, led the way with seven tackles (2.0 TFL) and forced a fumble while Devon Moore tallied six solo tackles (2.0 TFL). Fellow defensive captain Michael Gomez recorded one sack on the night and Chris Adams sacked the Peacocks' quarterback twice.

Winona State will face its biggest test of the season next Saturday when the Warriors travel to No. 3 Minnesota State Mankato for a battle of NSIC South heavyweights. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE : https://winonastatewarriors.com/news/2019/9/20/football-warriors-back-on-track-with-shutout-win-over-upper-iowa.aspx


Congratulations to Warrior Nick Pridgeon on being named NSICFB South Division   Preseason Defensive Player of the Year!