Winona State Warriors football returns - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Winona State Warriors football returns

WINONA, Minn. (KTTC) -

Thursday is opening night for a number of football teams at both the high school and college level, and whether coaches are still getting there feet wet or have roamed the sidelines for years the first game of the season is always special.  Winona State Head Coach Tom Sawyer spoke with KTTC Sports Director Pat Lund about the afternoon before the season opener.

"Yes you know 22-years of this Pat but I think the biggest thing is all the things around our game are changing as well we're really at a growth spurt for our program the tailgate stuff everything around it is great," said Sawyer.  "But walking out here at night with our team and hanging out with 18 to 23-year olds... there's nothing better."

It's a conference game right out of the gate for WSU against 25th ranked Bemidji State University.

Coach Sawyer put his team through a final walk-through Wednesday afternoon in preparation for the Beavers.

Coach will learn a lot about his team right away facing a top 25 opponent, as he'll get a look at a new offense that lost three prolific players at quarterback, running back and wide receiver.

Fifth year senior Darren Beenken has taken over the quarterback position that was held by Jack Nelson over the last four-years.

The 6-3, 210-pound Beenken has played in 16-games over his career connecting on 10-of-19 passes for 145-yards, one-touchdown and two interceptions.

"Darren Beenken is getting the start from Farmington he was an all-state kid. He's earned it he's been sitting there four years he was the same age as Jack Nelson and he's been sitting there. Most guys would quit or move on somewhere else he's been here it's his team I'm really excited for him" Coach Sawyer said.

Also, new running back Eric Birth gave his thoughts on the what the team needs to do offensively,

"Once we started doing everything right as a group on the offensive side I think that's when we know for the last couple practices there's been probably one mistake so I think were ready winning the first game is huge that really sets the tone for us especially against that top 25 team and beating Bemidji we beat them two years ago, it's another good test."

Kickoff Thursday night in Winona is at 6:00.

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