Winona State preserves the Sledge once again

%E2%80%9CMy+goal+for+us+is+to+win+games+and+to+get+better+everyday+on+and+off+the+field.%E2%80%9D+Clay+Schueffner+said.

Joseph Eichele

“My goal for us is to win games and to get better everyday on and off the field.” Clay Schueffner said.

Kailey Doeseckle, Sports Reporter

During the 2008 season, Winona State University would name a defensive player of the game from the previous week’s contest and award that player with a sledgehammer for the next week. 

At the Winona State-Southwest Minnesota State game that year, Winona State brought the hammer to mid-field during warm-ups while the Southwest Minnesota State University players looked on. 

When the Mustangs went on to earn a victory over the Warriors, following the game, SMSU players ran to the opposing sidelines and grabbed the sledgehammer, celebrating their victory at mid-field.  

Emotions ran high for both teams following the extremely hard-fought game, and as a Winona State player went to retrieve the sledgehammer from their opponents, a rivalry was born.  

The tradition of the traveling trophy began that day.  

The trophy is a seven-foot-tall sledgehammer with the team logos of both Winona State and SMSU on each side. The winning team of the annual game will have the opportunity to take the trophy back to their school to display until next year.  

Heading into last Saturday’s matchup, the Winona State University football team travelled with the intention of extending their winning streak, which they have maintained for the previous five seasons, in the Battle of the Sledge against Southwest Minnesota State University.  

The Mustangs, who have won four of their last five games this year, welcomed Winona State to the Schawn Regional Event Center. 

In the first half, the Mustangs scored a touchdown on their opening drive of the game to take the advantage at 7-0 after just four minutes of play. They managed to hold the Warriors to a mere two first downs and intercepted a pass by Trevor Paulsen to prevent a very promising drive. 

After this rough start, however, Winona State regained control. 

In the second quarter, the Warriors scored in every possible way, on offense, defense and special teams. Darryl Williams hauled in a 44-yard pass from Winona State quarterback Kyle Haas to score their first touchdown of the day. 

Then points began to roll in with ease.  

The second touchdown came when Aarion Lacy returned a punt 62 yards to move the Warrior advantage to 14-7. Winona State scored through standout special teams play again just a few minutes later. 

Winona State kept their collective determination in the second quarter, scoring again when Sam Santiago-Lloyd reached the end zone and Jacob Scott kicked a 30-yard field goal as time expired in the half after an excellent performance from the WSU offense. 

“I just went out there, did my best,” Scott said regarding his excellent record as Winona State football’s place kicker. He has done a fantastic job representing the special team and has even obtained the NSIC Special Teams Player-of-the-Week award.  

At the half, Winona State headed into the locker room at a 26-7 lead, having scored the most points in a single quarter of this year. 

After the break, the Warriors received the ball to start the second half and rushed 12 times, obtaining a distinct advantage in the time of possession for the period. The only score in the third was another 30-yard field goal from Scott, moving the scoreboard to 29-7.  

While the third quarter was about controlling the game for Winona State, the fourth quarter was certainly about emphasizing the win in the 2022 Battle for the Sledge. 

Winona State’s special teams made a statement about superiority once again with Chance Backer blocking a Mustang punt that was recovered by Andrew Goergen for the fourth Warrior touchdown of the day. 

Winona State concluded this exhilarating game with running back Nick McCabe who broke a rush for 65 yards, scoring his first touchdown as a Warrior, and the fifth and final score. 

The team truly pulled together after their loss just last weekend against Northern State University to make this an excellent game. 

“Relationships are extremely important both with other players and coaches,” Clay Schueffner, a linebacker from St. Cloud, Wis. said about trust and reliance on his team members. “Spending time with different people and getting to know everyone on the team is critical to team success.”

The Warriors certainly proved this as they came together to capitalize on Mustang mistakes on special teams and dialing up a dominant defense to score a 43-7 victory, holding on to the Sledge once again until next year.  

Winona State will host the top-ranked University of Sioux Falls next Saturday, Oct. 22 in a 2022 WSU Homecoming contest that contains very significant Division championship considerations.