Tales of the Gridiron: Warrior Game Day
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Being excited about Winner Warrior football has been easy recently. Since the start of last season the Warriors are 18-0, have outscored their opponents 902-48, fielded six All-State players, and won a state championship.
But the blooming tradition and enthusiasm for Warrior football didn’t sprout during its current success, nor does it wither away in less prosperous years. This tradition takes root decades in the past, even before the South Dakota high school playoffs came into existence. Although the gold and silver dividends from years of football frenzy can be seen locked behind glass and stitched into banners, the best place to see this tradition isn’t in a gymnasium or on the field, but on the street corner, in local businesses, and in the eyes of a community that for decades has made football a way of life.
“Everything revolves around not only football,
but just high school athletics.” – Harvey Naasz
As it turns out, you can meet a cornerstone of Winner Warrior football at 7:30 A.M. inside the Lil' Feller gas station. Over a cup of steaming coffee, Harvey Naasz and his friends engage in typical small town chatter. When asked if they would like to discuss football on camera, all fingers point to Harvey, who doesn’t hesitate to agree. It makes sense, because Harvey has a lot to talk about.
His 26-year tenure as head coach of the Winner Warriors includes three state championships, three undefeated seasons, and a record of 171-56-4. Harvey is also an inductee into the South Dakota Football Coaches Hall of Fame and National High School Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame. Despite witnessing over three decades of football as a coach, a few games still remain vivid memories.
“One of my first memories from grade school is not of P.E., it’s not of a basketball game,
it’s not of anything-I remember going to a football game…..” – Jody Brozik
The successful football tradition in Winner is contagious, and typically infects the youth of the community at a young age. Jon and Jody Brozik are two former Warrior players whose earliest childhood memories include black and blue living room football and intense gravel pit matches behind Friday night lights.
“You can forget an anniversary, you can forget a birthday,
but man you’re not gunna forget any detail of any game.” – Brian Naasz
If you’ve ever won a state championship in anything and are simultaneously having trouble deciding how to ask out the girl of your dreams on a date, you might want to take a play out of Brian Naasz’s playbook. But beyond the fact that Winner football can apparently sprout relationships, there is something else that makes this town a paradox from most communities: as the distance between generations of football players grows, the allure to the team has somehow managed to grow stronger.
Below are videos to Warrior state championship appearances under Harvey Naasz.
Video Courtesy Jody Brozik and Sports Ticket Live.
1981 Championship game (Winner vs. Vermillion)
1986 Championship game (Winner vs. Canton)
1987 Championship game (Winner vs. Aberdeen Roncolli)
1989 Championship game (Winner vs. Milbank)