- Associated Press - Friday, November 25, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Without its star running back and trailing in the fourth quarter against Winona, Benilde-St. Margaret’s could easily have folded. Instead, the Red Knights made history.

Benilde-St. Margaret’s scored a touchdown with less than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter to earn the program’s first state title with a 31-28 win over Winona in a thrilling Class AAAA State Championship at U.S. Bank Stadium on Friday.

“It’s a win for the whole program,” said Benilde-St. Margaret junior Braeden Fitzgerald. “Ricky (Floyd) went down and we had to pick each other up.”

Winona (11-2) led 28-24 after Dakota Matthees’ 37-yard touchdown reception on the first play of the fourth, but Liam Ford’s 24-yard touchdown with 4:50 to play gave the Red Knights a lead they would not relinquish.

Ford sealed the victory with an interception with less than 90 seconds remaining to end Winona’s final drive. The junior led Benilde-St. Margaret’s (10-3) with 81 yards rushing and two scores, taking over for Floyd who injured his left shoulder on his second carry of the game.

“After about 10 minutes, we finally settled down (after Floyd’s injury) and some of the kids started to grab the reigns and off we went,” said Benilde-St. Margaret’s co-head coach Jon Hanks.

The game was a back-and-forth affair featuring nine lead changes. The two teams combined for 35 points in a wild second quarter that included defensive touchdowns by both sides.

Winona quarterback Riley Bosteter started the scoring by throwing a 37-yard touchdown to Matthees on the second play of the quarter, giving the Winhawks a 7-3 lead.

The Red Knights countered with a Will Whitmore to Matt Brooks scoring connection of their own to retake a three-point lead. Less than 90 seconds later, though, Winona’s Dan Jonsgaard scooped up a fumble and sprinted 37 yards for a touchdown.

Things cooled for a few minutes before Benilde-St. Margaret’s sophomore John Whitmore intercepted a pass, and rumbled 68 yards to the end zone to swing the score in favor of the Red Knights, 17-14, with less than a minute until intermission.

The Winhawks answered again to take a 21-17 lead into the half when Bosteter found a wide-open Jason Boelter near the Winona sideline for a 45-yard touchdown.

“One play here or there and it goes the other way,” said Winona coach John Cassellius. “They’re an excellent team, and they made plays.”

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