Photo By Hillary Ehlen
Redshirt freshman quarterback Trey Lance did not see the field in North Dakota State’s two victories over South Dakota State in 2018. While he may not be entirely familiar with the Jackrabbits per se, Lance does find a recognizable name on SDSU’s depth chart.
That face is sophomore defensive end Reece Winkelman, a high school teammate and friend of Lance from Marshall, Minnesota. Rather than wearing a similar shade, Winkelman will instead be rushing after Lance in Saturday’s Dakota Marker game in Brookings.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun. I think since I committed, we’ve all been kind of thinking about this day. He has also played against Blaise [Andries] at Minnesota earlier this year,” Lance said of matching up with Winkelman this Saturday. Andries is also from Marshall. “We’re going to be friends regardless of what happens on Saturday but we’re both hoping to get the win so it’ll be a lot of competition.”
Lance says Winkelman is one of his best friends and their connection with one another goes beyond the gridiron. Winkelman played both linebacker and tight end for Marshall High School, catching passes from Lance in his senior season in 2016. That 2016 campaign saw the Tigers make it all the way to the Minnesota state semifinals at US Bank Stadium. Winkelman was named the USA Today Minnesota Defensive Player of the Year.
“He’s a fun dude to be around. He is a playmaker and super talented, he actually played linebacker and tight end for us in high school. He set a lot of records at our school at tight end especially,” Lance said of his former teammate when recalling that 2016 season. “It was a lot of fun being around him because he is a great competitor, great athlete and a very talented dude.”
Now, heading into his first Dakota Marker game, the narrative is a little different for Trey Lance. He says he and Winkelman have not been in contact with one another all week. That will likely hold true until the clock strikes zero on Saturday in Brookings. However, both Lance and Winkelman have been excited for this moment for some time.
“There are subtle jabs all year and through the summer,” Lance said about trash talk between him and Winkelman. “It’s all in good fun but on Saturday it’ll be business for sure.”
So far in 2019, Lance has dazzled on the field, garnering plenty of national attention. Going into the game against the Jackrabbits, Lance is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes for 1,257 yards and 15 touchdowns. On the ground, Lance has added 457 yards and seven touchdowns to his totals. While all of that is impressive, the most jaw-dropping statistic is the fact that he has yet to turn the ball over (no interceptions through seven games).
It just so happens that Lance’s former teammate is playing his best football through seven games as well. Currently, Reece Winkelman is leading South Dakota State in total sacks with four. The sophomore has also racked up five tackles for loss and 18 total tackles so far this season. With both Marshall products playing at such a high level, it is sure to be a clash of the titans on Saturday. However, will familiarity give either Lance or Winkelman an advantage come kickoff?
“Maybe a little bit. We just know each other so well and know a lot about each other on and off the field,” Lance said. “We’re both competitors so it’s all business this week.”
Winkelman is not the only familiar face Lance will see on Saturday either. Redshirt freshman running back Jefferson Lee V was a teammate and graduated from Marshall in 2017 like Lance. With a host of good running backs in their stable, Lee V has only gotten two carries so far this season. With Marshall lying only an hour east of Brookings, Lance says he has classmates and friends who will be in attendance at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium. Obviously, Lance’s family will be in attendance as well.
“So many kids from my high school have texted me saying they’ll be at the game,” Lance said. “A lot of them go to SDSU unfortunately so I have to make sure to tell them to be in their Bison gear.”
In a game that will surely play a large role in the Missouri Valley Football Conference race, Trey Lance knows this game gets won at the line of scrimmage. With an experienced Jackrabbit front seven, he is aware of how vital his front five are this week.”They’re a really good team, front seven especially. They have a couple of new faces in the secondary, but their front seven is solid and they do their job by not making a lot of mistakes,” he said. “We’re going to have to play tough up front and dominate the line of scrimmage.”
Trey Lance has never played against South Dakota State, but he knows the magnitude of the Dakota Marker game. He may not be entirely familiar with the Jackrabbit defense or scheme, but he is familiar with one key piece of their front seven. While he laughs and looks forward to playing against a great friend and former teammate in Reece Winkelman now, that demeanor changes on Saturday.
As soon as the ball is kicked off in Brookings, Lance will be all business. Just like he has been all season.