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Already one of the most successful classes in Winona football history, the class of 2020 is finally the top dogs and ready to shine.

This year’s senior class is chock full of players who have been key contributors and starters on varsity for years, getting huge playing time as sophomores and even freshmen. They were key contributors on state tournament teams alongside Jacob Stanislawski, Nick Waldo, Riley Bosteter, Dakota Matthees, and Terrell Hall. And now it’s their time to 15-player senior class to step into the spotlight.

“It feels good to be the top dog,” senior linebacker Sam Kanne said. “It’s a lot of pressure because you don’t have anybody to rely on, it’s just you. But you have more trust in you from the coaches and more responsibility. The young kids are looking up to you so you want to give them a good example.”

In their three years on varsity, they have a 32-4 overall record and have posted back-to-back unbeaten regular seasons the last two years. They have made three consecutive state tournaments with runs to the state championship as freshmen and the state semifinals as sophomores.

Their names are plastered all over the WSHS record books.

Running back Trevor Pomeroy set the school record for rushing yards in a season last year with 1,610 — breaking the previous record of 1,320 held by Tanner Remlinger — by nearly 300 yards. His 15 rushing touchdowns last season were one shy of the school record and he is one or two big games away from setting career records in both yards and touchdowns. His 2,046 yards and 20 touchdowns put him just 138 yards and five touchdowns behind Paul Klinger, who holds the records in both categories with 2,184 career rushing yards and 25 touchdowns.

Pomeroy averaged 8.5 yards per carry last season and topped 100 yards seven times and 200 yards three times.

“We bring back Trevor, he’s going to be Trevor — breaking records,” senior quarterback Jackson Nibbelink said. “You can never go wrong handing the ball off to that guy.”

Pomeroy will have his dominant offensive line back to bust open big holes for him this season.

The line including Ethan Prodzinski (6-foot-5, 270 pounds), Bennett Heftman (6-3, 245), Cal Brinkman (6-3, 250), Garit Wollan (6-4, 230), and Aaron Witt (6-6, 230) is all returning, missing only starter Matt Leahy from last season. The unit won’t be at full strength to start the season, as they are taking it slow with Prodzinski, who is cleared to play but coming back off a knee injury, and Heftman will be out for a couple more weeks with a knee injury of his own. Witt will start the season at right tackle, but may move out to tight end once Heftman is healthy.

The Winhawks line led the way for the third- and fourth-highest team rushing totals in school history the last two seasons with 2,866 in 2017 as sophomores and 2,357 last year as juniors.

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“Until (Prodzinski and Heftman) come back, we’re going to have to fill in some holes,” Witt said. “But once we get the same five back from last year, it should be pretty fun to watch.”

Several of the players on that dominant O-line play both ways and contribute to a defensive front seven that will be a major strength of the team. Witt is a University of Wisconsin commit who plays defensive end for the Winhawks but will play outside linebacker in college. He sits at 12 career sacks after seven last year and five in 2017. He needs six this season to break the school record of 17½ set by Waldo. And Prodzinski has been a force up the middle at defensive tackle.

The team’s leading tacklers from the last two campaigns are back for their senior seasons. Safety Austin Mlynczak led the team last year with 85 tackles, while linebacker Sam Kanne led the team in 2017 as a sophomore with 103. The 6-0, 220-pound Kanne missed time with a broken hand early last season and played a number of games with a club on his hand. But he still finished the season with 78 tackles in eight games. With a big season he’s capable of, Kanne could climb into the top three on the all-time tackles list. He’s at 191 now and is 65 behind Mitch Jacobson’s 256. It would take a massive season to pass Brody Hogenson (349) or Chase Bratland (454) for a top-two spot.

“Our front seven is going to be pretty tough,” Kanne said. “We’ve got basically the whole starting unit back except (Matt) Leahy is gone. Our linebackers are going to be solid and bring back Mlynczak.”

The passing game should be in good shape with last season’s starting quarterback Jackson Nibbelink returning. He passed for 1,502 yards with 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions and added seven touchdowns on the ground. The QB only rushed for 84 yards last season on 70 attempts, but is more mobile than that number indicates. As a sprinter on the track team, he ran a person best time of 11.72 seconds in the 100-meter dash and 24.05 in the 200.

The receiver position is a bit of a question mark for the Winhawks after losing the program’s all-time receptions leader, Terrell Hall, to graduation. Hall accounted for more than half of Winona’s passing output with 785 yards, while Ethan Ringo, who also graduated, had 435.

The top two receivers this season look to be 6-foot-3 receiver Dayne Gamoke, who showed the ability to get open last year as he caught five passes for 73 yards and the dependable Mlynczak, who had 167 yards.

“Terrell is irreplaceable, but me and Dayne have a good shot to be a good connection this year,” Nibbelink said. “And Mooner (Mlynczak) will be a big moving piece in this offense this year.

“Dayne is quite flashy, he’s tall, he’s fast, he has good hands. He’s hard to guard. And Mooner is a great route runner and catches almost anything you throw to him.”

The Winhawks open the season on Friday as they take on Albert Lea at Rochester Community and Technical College. Winona defeated the Tigers 42-14 in the section playoffs last year and are playing them in the regular season for the first time since 2014.

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(1) comment

Winonanative

The three football seasons from the fall of 1986 to the fall of 1988 rival these past three seasons. With that said Go Winhawks!

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