Football bounces back, defends ‘The Sledge’


Mohammed Islam

Winona State University duked it out against Southwest Minnesota State University in the Battle of the Sledge this past weekend on Oct. 16, pulling away with the win. Defending their ‘Sledge’ , the Warriors ended the game up 26-14, making their season 4-3. Next weekend, the Warriors will strive to make their record 5-3 against the University of Sioux Falls.

Robert Glarner, sports reporter

Winona State University secured the win this past weekend, 26-14, against Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU) to keep ‘The Sledge’ for another year.
Winona State was looking to bounce back from last game’s loss against Northern State University.
Winona State’s Assistant Head Coach, Cameron Keller, gave insight on that week’s game.
“Obviously we’re disappointed in the final outcome, but I was proud of the way our kids fought back in the second half to give us chance,” Keller said. “We just had too many mental mistakes in the first quarter that we couldn’t overcome and it ultimately cost us a game. We have to start faster and cleaner this week against an SMSU team that plays fast offensively.”
Winona State started the game off with the ball first to battle it out with SMSU to keep ‘The Sledge’.
On Winona State’s first possession, they marched down the field to the 10-yard line with help from a big run from fifth-year quarterback, Owen Burke, and an unsportsmanlike call on SMSU.
On 3rd and 7, Burke attempted a pass to the end zone but was covered well by SMSU.
Jacob Scott, first-year kicker, would put the first points up on the board with a 17-yard field goal.
SMSU, trying to answer back on the next possession, arrived in Winona State’s territory and ran a QB draw up the middle. SMSU fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Luc Leszczynski, third-year defensive linemen.
The crowd rose to their feet, clapping and cheering as Winona State got the ball back, preventing SMSU from scoring.
With the positive momentum, Winona State’s next possession included two big runs from Dominik London, third-year running back, and Javian Roebuck, fourth-year running back, setting up Scott with another 17-yard field goal to put Winona State up, 6-0.

After a major defensive stop by Winona State, SMSU punted the ball back to the Warriors.
Winona State entered SMSU territory next, Burke heaving the ball up into the endzone to Tyler Knutson, fourth-year wide receiver, who was held by SMSU. A pass interference call on SMSU moved Winona State to the 9-yard line.
Burke pitched the ball to Balliu on a sweep, Balliu turning on the jets to get around the corner and dove to the pylon to score a touchdown that put Winona State up, 13-0. Scott was successful with the extra point.
Coach Keller gave his insight on SMSU’s defense, saying, “They are longer on the edges with a couple of their DEs and Outside LBs, so we have made sure this week to pay attention to some of those spots and have some plans in place to control those edges.”
The battle for ‘The Sledge’ made the game that much more tense as two unsportsmanlike calls went towards both teams following the successful extra point by Scott.
A couple possessions later, SMSU lined up in shotgun formation, center snapping the ball high over the quarterback’s head while Winona State rushed to recover the ball. Leszczynski got his second fumble recovery of the game, putting them in great field position.
After the Warriors failed to score and a couple turnovers from both teams, the first half ended with Winona State up, 13-0.
Knutson also gave his thoughts on SMSU, saying, “They seem like they’re well-coached. They don’t make big mistakes, and they play with confidence. We have to win one play at a time, and hopefully, we can take advantage of mistakes they may make.”
SMSU got the ball to start the second half, coming out determined to score as their running back carried it 67 yards before being tackled 2 yards short of the endzone. SMSU put up their first points with a 2-yard rushing touchdown to make the score 13-7.
Winona State needing to answer with a touchdown, ran out to the field to start their drive. After a couple good runs by London, the Warriors got into SMSU’s territory.
Burke lined up under center, stepoed back, rolled out to his left and heaved the ball to Sawyer Maly, second-year wide receiver, for a 28-yard touchdown. Scott is good with the extra point once again, the score moving to 20-7.
The second half turned into an offensive showdown as both teams came out and scored on their first possessions.
SMSU got the ball back, knowing they had to score to make it a one-possession game. SMSU moved down the field, converting a couple of fourth downs. SMSU, at Winona’s 19-yard line, threw it into the endzone for an SMSU touchdown, the score shifting to 20-14.
The fans flew to their feet as the third quarter started to become a shootout between both teams.
Winona State took the field once again, looking to score and extend their lead.
SMSU played good defense for the start of the drive. Burke then stepped into the pocket and threw it over to Ethan Wittenburg, third-year wide receiver, for a gain of 21 yards.
A few plays after, Burke handed it off to London, who burst up the middle, getting past SMSU defense and scoring for a 27-yard touchdown. The extra point is wide left, keeping the score at 26-14.
With both teams trading touchdowns in the third quarter, SMSU began the fourth quarter with the ball.
Winona State completed a defensive stop and gained the ball after a turnover on downs from SMSU.
With the Warriors’ next drive starting out with a couple of run plays, Burke tried to throw it to Wittenburg, but the ball was tipped and intercepted by SMSU.
SMSU, however, was not able to score, as Winona State made their opponents turn the ball over on downs.
At the end of the fourth quarter, SMSU possessed the ball one more time. They marched to Winona State’s 19-yard line towards the endzone.
Winona State’s defense forced SMSU to turn the ball over on downs though, securing the win for Winona State and keeping ‘The Sledge’.
“Coming out with a win is extremely important moving forward because we need to get back on track before we face a challenging back half of the season, including Augustana, Sioux Falls and Mankato, who are all strong opponents,” Knutson said.
Winona State improves their record to 4-3 on the season and will take on University of Sioux Falls on Oct. 23 at 1 p.m. to try and improve their record to 5-3.