The Mavericks’ most recent win put them back in the hunt for an NSIC Championship. With only two games remaining, they must win both to earn the title.
The Mavericks will face the 4-5 Winona State Warriors in their last regular season road game Saturday. The Mavericks are 8-1 and are in a three-way tie for the conference lead with Bemidji State and Augustana.
“I think in our rivalry game records don’t matter and rankings don’t matter,” said head coach Todd Hoffner. “You have to play exceptionally well. We’re playing in someone else’s house and they’ve done well against us over the years.”
Winona primarily relies on its passing game as 224 of their 350 yards per game through the air. Quarterback Cole Stenstrom has thrown for 1,939 yards and 14 touchdowns, connecting with Kaleb Skelly 37 times this year. Sylvere Campbell has 416 receiving yards and both players have scored four touchdowns each. Cair’ron Hendred leads the Warriors’ rushing attack with 531 yards and five touchdowns, while Ty Gavin has rushed for 276 yards and three touchdowns.
“They are a big, nasty, physical group,” defensive end Maven Kretche said. “I’ve played them two times now and they always get after it. We just want to stop the run and hold them under 19 points.”
The Mavericks’ defense has a 33% third-down conversion rate and have recorded 22 sacks, averaging over three per game. They give up an average of 19 points and 326 yards per game.
The Mavericks’ offense could pose a nightmare for the Warriors. While Winona State allows 29 points per game, the Mavericks average 35. The Warriors limit opponents to 165 rushing yards, while the Mavs excel in their run-heavy offense.
Shen Butler-Lawson leads the Mavericks’ rushing attack with 1,180 yards and 12 touchdowns. Christian Vasser contributes 381 yards, and Tony Anger has scored five rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Hayden Ekern has thrown for 1,833 yards and 18 touchdowns.
“Winning is more important than what I’m doing,” Butler-Lawson said. “I’ve had a successful season so far but it’s just about all the work we put in as a whole. It’s really just a reflection of our team and how we do what needs to be done to win.”
Currently, the Mavericks are ranked 10th in the nation and sixth in the latest edition of the NCAA Super Region Four rankings. Super Region Four includes teams from the NSIC, Lone Star Conference, and the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. The top seven teams will advance to the NCAA Tournament.
“Hopefully we are starving, not hungry,” Hoffner said “You are only as good as your next snap. Nothing is guaranteed at this stage of the game and you have to play every snap like it’s your last.”
Header Photo: The Minnesota State football team has been ranked sixth in the most recent edition of the NCAA Super Region Four rankings. (Lilly Anderson/The Reporter)
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