TAKE IT AWAY, ’HAWKS: Winona forces six turnovers in fast start, holds off New Prague to move to 3-0
Five first-half takeaways led to quick scores as the Winhawks built a gigantic lead early on New Prague in a 40-30 Big Southeast Blue football victory on Friday at Paul Giel Field.
Despite a casted arm, senior defensive back Zaid Elsabbagh had a pair of first-half interceptions, while junior defensive end Aaron Witt had an interception and a fumble recovery. All four takeaways turned into points as the Winhawks improved to their season record to 3-0. The Class AAAA No. 3 Winhawks dominated the first half, taking a 40-6 lead into halftime, but New Prague crawled back into it in the second half against the Winhawks reserves.
Witt showed off the hands that made him an effective tight end as a sophomore as he laid out to grab a batted pass by Trojans quarterback Parker Johnson early in the first quarter. Nibbelink scored his second 12-yard rushing touchdown of the game on a read option run to his right to give the Trojans a 13-0 lead with 7:45 to go in the first quarter.
Nibbelink’s first score came on the second play of the game after running back Trevor Pomeroy broke free for a 62-yard run on a pitch to the left.
Witt struck again on the next New Prague drive, recovering a fumble at the 38-yard line. One play later, Nibbelink hit Terrell Hall for a 38-yard touchdown to take a 20-0 lead. Hall caught an in-route, got a perfect pass in stride from his quarterback, and avoided two tacklers running to his left.
Elsabbagh’s first interception set up a 40-yard scoring drive capped off by a 1-yard run up the middle by Trevor Pomeroy to give Winona a 26-0 lead with 3:14 to go in the first quarter. Hall caught a 33-yard pass from Nibbelink on the drive.
Nibbelink finished the game 3 for 7 for 96 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions passing and with 45 yards and two touchdowns rushing. He came out of the game early in the third quarter and re-entered for the final drive as the Winhawks ran the clock out.
Pomeroy carried eight times for 86 yards and a score. And Hall caught two passes for 71 yards.
Cole Reinardy scored a 16-yard touchdown as he went untouched right up the middle with 10:07 to go in the half to make it 33-0.
Elsabbagh grabbed his second interception of the game near midfield and weaved through the Trojans offense down to the 15-yard line. Kyle Meyer finished the drive with a 2-yard fullback dive to give the Winhawks a 40-0 lead with 1:56 to go in the first half.
The Trojans finally got into the end zone as time expired in the first half as Parker Johnson rolled out to his left and found a wide open Jacob Deutsch for a 29-yard touchdown pass to make it 40-6.
The Winhawks shored up their run defense against the Trojans after Rochester John Marshall and Faribault had success on the ground in the first two games. New Prague ran the ball 16 times for 20 yards and had 64 yards through the air in the first half. New Prague racked up some yards and some more points in the second half as the Winhawks had the backups in.
Ryan Schoenbauer burned the Winona second teamers on a 51-yard pass from Johnson on a go route with 10:26 to go in the game to make it 40-14.
Mitchell Callahan scored a 90-yard touchdown after a Winhawks turnover on downs to make it 40-22 with 7 minutes to go.
Johnson made it a 10-point game 40-30 with 3:28 to go with a 2-yard touchdown run. Callahan broke off runs of 24 and 37 to get the Trojans into the red zone.
That prompted the Winhawks coaches to put some of their starters back in the game to run out the clock, which they did to finish off the Trojans.