Waseca running back Joe Hagen had no trouble finding his footing on the snow-covered turf at Farmington High School on Friday in the Class 4A quarterfinals.
Hagen ran for 250 yards and five touchdowns in the first three quarters while leading Waseca to a convincing 49-7 victory over No. 2-ranked and previously unbeaten Winona. The Bluejays take a seven-game winning streak into the program's first state semifinal appearance Thursday against the SMB Wolfpack at U.S. Bank Stadium.
"It's been an incredible journey. I'm so proud of the kids and a little in awe of them right now," said coach Brad Wendland, who guided Waseca to its only other state quarterfinal appearance in Class 3A in 2009. "They continue to get better, have more fun and be better teammates. It's been incredible to watch as a coach."
Since losing to Marshall 19-18 on Sept. 28, the Bluejays have averaged 47 points per game. They scored 48 in a section tournament upset of top-ranked Hutchinson and scored 41 points against Dassel-Cokato in the Section 2 finals.
"We knew we had talent, but at the beginning of the season we were kind of lacking focus and maturity. We've really grown together and matured and now we're really playing at a high level," Wendland said. "We just try to win every day, and when it's practice we try to win for two hours at practice. Our mental toughness just continues to get better."
Two early Winona mistakes fueled Waseca's fast start Friday. Two plays after Winona's errant long snap on a punt attempt gave the Bluejays the ball at the Warhawks 10-yard line, senior running back Hayden Groll opened the scoring with a 4-yard touchdown run. The Winhawks fumbled on their next drive and Hagen quickly made them pay by scoring an 8-yard touchdown. Another Hagen TD and two-point conversion run put the Bluejays up 26-7 at halftime.
Hagen put the game out of reach in the third quarter when he broke free for touchdown runs of 56 and 73 yards.
Senior Terrell Hall accounted for Winona's lone touchdown with a 1-yard run in the second quarter. The Winhawks (10-1) reached the state quarterfinals for the third consecutive year.