Winona head coach John Cassellius needed an eighth lead change Friday night in Minneapolis; instead, Benilde-St. Margaret's safety Liam Ford delivered the final decisive defensive play to end the Winhawks bid for an elusive state football championship.
Ford jumped a crossing route with under a minute to play in the fourth quarter and intercepted Winona junior quarterback Riley Bosteter to seal a state victory, the Red Knights first in school history.
Three minutes earlier, Ford had rushed through the Winhawks front seven for a 20-yard touchdown, putting the Red Knights ahead 31-28.
Both plays proved to be the difference in a thrilling Class AAAA championship game, Winona's first Prep Bowl appearance since 1987.
"You know what they say -- a little bit of time kind of heals and gives you time to reflect," Cassellius said. "It's hard right now, but at the same time to be back here, it was a long time coming and these guys have kind of left a legacy."
"To see this program go through such a change, it's just been unbelievable," Brody Hogenson (16 tackles - game high) said. "I think any of these guys can vouch for that, just to see that complete turnaround, to see guys working hard."
After falling behind 3-0 after one quarter, Winona traded touchdowns and turnovers with the Red Knights and went into the locker room at halftime leading 21-17.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Winhawks backup quarterback Terrell Hall hit Dakota Matthees with a 37-yard touchdown pass to put Winona up 28-24.
Over the final two Winhawks drives, an interception apiece from Hall and Bosteter allowed Benilde-St. Margaret's to run out the final seconds en route to a three point win.
"I always tell these guys to go out and make dreams, and not only for yourselves. But there's a lot of fans in the stands right now and they sure have a different dream than what they probably did three or four weeks ago," Cassellius said.