Football team wins first State title in franchise history with 31-28 win over Winona

The BSM football team won their first State 4A Championship in program history by defeating the Winona Winhawks 31-28 on Friday, November 25, 2016.

The BSM football team has won their first State AAAA Championship in franchise history, as they beat the Winona Winhawks 31-28 in a wild, back-and-forth game in Prep Bowl XXXV at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Friday, November 25.  After the girls’ soccer team hoisted the State Championship trophy three weeks ago in the same venue, the football team followed suit and “cashed in” at “The Bank” the day after Thanksgiving.

In the first quarter, Winona was stopped on the opening drive of the game, but as the Red Knights got the ball back, a scary moment transpired.  Senior running back Ricky Floyd, who had carried the team to this game, went down and would not return in the game.  The Red Knights would not quit, however, as they fulfilled their running game with a steady diet of junior Ikenna Ujuagu, senior Alex Houlihan, and junior Liam Ford as well.

Towards the end of the first quarter, after BSM stopped Winona on 4th and 2 to get the ball back, the Red Knights manufactured an impressive drive and went on top 3-0 when Alex Houlihan’s field goal split the uprights.  In the second quarter, however, Winona would score and from that point on, neither team would have larger than a one-possession lead in the game.  The Winhawks scored their first of three touchdowns that came on a long pass play along the right sideline, making it 7-3 Winona.

BSM would answer back to retake the lead.  With senior quarterback Will Whitmore rolling out to his left as he so often does, senior wide receiver Matthew Brooks got open in the left corner of the end zone, and Whitmore fired the ball to Brooks, who made the catch and kept his feet in bounds beautifully for the touchdown and the 10-7 BSM lead.

On a Winona drive later in the second quarter, junior Liam Ford made his presence known by intercepting a Winhawk pass and giving the ball back to the Red Knights.  On the very next play, however, Whitmore and Houlihan experienced miscommunication as Houlihan fumbled the ball and Winona recovered and easily ran it to the end zone to give the Winhawks a 14-10 lead.

After giving up a touchdown on a turnover, the Red Knights got the lead right back as sophomore John Whitmore intercepted a Winona pass and ran the ball back to the end zone to give the Red Knights a 17-14 lead.

Refusing to be down at the half, Winona hooked up on another long pass play down the right side for another touchdown, and the Winhawks would be up 21-17 at halftime.

In the second half, Ford would prove to be the deciding factor, as he would run the ball in for BSM’s final two touchdowns of the season.  On 4th and goal, with the Red Knights deciding to make the risky call and go for it to try to go ahead rather than taking the easy points with a field goal, Ford barreled into the end zone to give the Red Knights a 24-21 lead.

Joey Simpson and John Landry

The BSM defense made key stops when they needed to all throughout the game, and they did so again after Ford’s touchdown run.  On 4th and short, the Red Knights stuffed the Winona running back to get the ball back, still having the three point lead going into the fourth quarter.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, the Winhawks burned the Red Knights again on the long pass play down the right side, resulting in another Winona touchdown and a 28-24 deficit for BSM.  With less than 5:00 to go in the game, however, Ford ran up the middle into the end zone for his second touchdown run of the game, putting the Red Knights up 31-28 for good.

After Ford’s game-winning touchdown run, the Red Knights got a couple of huge interceptions–one from senior Malachi Johnson off a tip, and the other from Ford himself–to officially seal the deal and ensure the Red Knights’ first State AAAA Championship in the football program’s history.

After years of rebuilding, the BSM football program was able to take steps forward in the years preceding 2016 towards their ultimate goal that was achieved on Friday: hoisting the State Championship trophy.  In 2013, BSM was inches away from making the State AAAA Tournament when they suffered a 27-23 loss at the hands of the DeLaSalle Islanders in the Section 6AAAA Championship.  In 2015, the team broke through to make the State AAAA Tournament, but fell to the Becker Bulldogs in the State AAAA Quarterfinal, 48-7.

But in 2016, the team was able to put all of the pieces together, overcome two close losses at the end of the regular season, and get hot at the right time, as they beat the Winhawks without their star running back to be the last team standing in Class AAAA Football.  All of the intense summer training, 3-hour practices on busy school nights, and rehabbing from injuries throughout the season has paid off, as one thing is clear: BSM football has “cashed in.”