Saturday ended up marking the final game for Woodbury's Ryan Winter and Joe Reed with the University of St. Thomas football team.
Both seniors were factors on the field for the Tommies as they faced the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in St. Paul on Saturday for a spot in the semifinals of the NCAA Division 3 playoffs. Winter provided perhaps the biggest highlight of the day for St. Thomas fans when he blocked a punt and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown. The play led to a 24-24 tie at the 4:34 mark of the third quarter.
But eight turnovers were costly for No. 3-ranked St. Thomas. Oshkosh kicker Eli Wettstein delivered the game-winning 36-yard field goal with 2:30 left in the fourth quarter for a 34-31 victory.
The St. Thomas defense had allowed just six points in their first two playoff wins against University of Northwestern and Coe College. But defensive lineman and Woodbury graduate Winter said it took time on Saturday for the defense to make adjustments to Oshkosh’s offensive schemes.
“I think we got a little shocked, too, by how fast they scored,” Winter said. “Once we settled down it was more how our defense really plays.”
The St. Thomas offense rebounded a bit to help tie the game after trailing 24-10 at halftime. Wide receiver Reed, who made two catches for 24 yards, said they used the half to regroup.
“We got back to playing St. Thomas football,” said Reed, a graduate of Cretin-Derham Hall. “I think that was the difference.”
Winter’s third-quarter touchdown was his first since last season when he intercepted a pass against Augsburg. He broke through the Oshkosh line on Saturday thanks to some extra attention on his teammate.
“I heard they were going to double team the guy next to me, so I had a free run right to the punter,” Winter said. “I got a fortunate bounce, and I took it to the house.”
Winter has done more than just play football while attending St. Thomas. He and teammate Nick Waldvogel are among just 49 players voted onto the 2016 Division 3 Football Academic All-America team this season. Winter is a business economics major who is currently an intern at AXA Advisors.
“I would like to be a financial advisor,” he said. “I have an internship right now where I’m doing that, and I enjoy it.”
Winter plans to travel abroad in Europe over the winter break and has just one class to finish in the spring semester before graduating.
Winter and the rest of the St. Thomas seniors have experienced long runs in the Division 3 playoffs over the past two seasons. Last season the Tommies advanced to the national championship game, the Stagg Bowl, before losing to Mount Union 49-35.
But the bond with his teammates is what stands out the most when reflecting back on his time with the football program.
“Probably just the brotherhood that we have,” Winter said. “I have friends I will have for life on this team.”Versatile Reed pitches in for special teams
Reed’s primary position this season was at wide receiver, but he was also a mainstay on the St. Thomas special teams. He helped fill an open position at punter and also returned kicks for the Tommies.
Reed played his high school football at Cretin-Derham Hall and then decided to follow his sister Rebecca’s footsteps to St. Thomas. His dad, Charles, was also an assistant football coach at Cretin-Derham Hall.
“St. Thomas always said if I’m going to stay in Minnesota, I’m going to go to St. Thomas,” Reed said. “My sister and brother-in-law are both graduates of St. Thomas. It’s kind of a bit like a family tradition.”
Reed is also a short-distance runner with the St. Thomas track and field team. He plans to take some time off to rest before starting the indoor track and field season.
The Woodbury native is an operations management major and hopes to get a job at a company like 3M or Medtronic when he graduates this spring.
Reed said his biggest memories of St. Thomas will be the camaraderie he had this season with the team.
“I think I’m going to remember the culture that we had our senior year,” Reed said. “I think this was the closest I’ve ever been to a group of people in my life. I will never forget these guys.”