Winona forced five turnovers and overcame four of its own to defeat Simley 24-14 in a Class 4A quarterfinal Friday at McNamara Stadium in Hastings.
Quarterback Jackson Nibbelink rushed for two touchdowns and threw to Spencer Wright for one for the second-seeded Winhawks (11-0), who are making their fourth consecutive state tournament appearance. Wright, Bennett Heftman and Trenten Langowski had interceptions.
“We played off our defense, and it worked out for us,” Nibbelink said.
Simley led 7-0 after the first quarter, in large part because of two fumbles, including one that set up the touchdown. Winona tied the score in the second quarter on Nibbelink’s rushing touchdown and took the lead for good on Bryan Cassellius’ 29-yard field goal.
Nibbelink and Wright connected for a 69-yard touchdown pass early in the third quarter, and Nibbelink added his second rushing score in the fourth. That score capped a 69-yard drive that included a 17-yard run by Trevor Pomeroy, Winona’s all-time leading rusher.
“We really said, ‘They gave us another opportunity. We’re not going to keep turning it over. We’ve got to buckle down, be the bigger team and just push it down their throat,’ ” Nibbelink said of the drive.
Simley’s Shane Prifrel rushed for a touchdown and threw a touchdown pass to Hope Adebayo for the Spartans (9-2), who were making their first state appearance since 2014.
“I think we were trying to force some things that weren’t there,” first-year coach Chris Mensen said of the turnovers.