Spring Grove is a Nine-Man football team from Section 1, and anyone who pays attention to such things knows all about Section 1 football because of another team. The Grand Meadow Superlarks won the Nine-Man state championship in 2013. And 2014. And 2015. And 2016.
In 2017, however, the Spring Grove Lions are the champions of Section 1, and with Thursday’s 27-7 victory over Stephen-Argyle in the state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium, they will play for a state championship on Nov. 24. They will take a 13-0 record into that game against the winner of Friday’s semifinal between Russell-Tyler-Ruthton (10-2) and Nevis (10-1).
Spring Grove made previous trips to state in 2003 and 2011. The 2017 season has been special from the get-go; the Lions defeated Cleveland 52-51 in overtime in Week 1, beat Grand Meadow 33-20 in Week 7 (and 40-17 in the section playoffs) and got to state with a 36-35 nail-biter over Cleveland in the section title game.
Dueling with Grand Meadow for section titles has been an almost yearly tradition, so the Lions are very pleased to be standing where they are today.
“We were so close for so many years and we had a lot of talented teams, just like we do this year,” said Spring Grove coach Zach Hauser. “You have to give a lot of credit to Grand Meadow for what they’ve done all these years.”
The Lions are obviously a talented team, with a marquee player in quarterback Alex Folz. When the 5-foot-10, 200-pound junior was 13 years old, he was the Punt, Pass and Kick national champion in that age group. Against Stephen-Argyle (11-2) he ran 29 times for 175 yards and four touchdowns while completing 17 of 23 passes (with one interception) for 214 yards.
“It’s getting pretty routine for Alex to have these types of performances,” Hauser said. “They’re pretty special, though. … Everything’s clicking right now for Alex and hopefully it is again next week.”
Folz said everything is happening because of the team.
“This is definitely the best feeling I’ve ever had,” he said. “This is a great team, we’re all together. I’m having the funnest season I’ve ever had.”Class 2A: Fantastic, Priceless Season For Paynesville
The Paynesville Bulldogs knew they were facing a tall task against Caledonia in the Class 2A semifinals. The Warriors are the clear powerhouse in 2A, winning state titles in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2016.
Thursday’s result was a 49-16 Caledonia victory, but that did little to dampen the enthusiasm that has been with Paynesville all season. The Bulldogs (9-3) reached the state semifinals for the first time since 1979, and this season was special.
“Our community has loved it,” said coach Max Meagher. “They’ve been behind us all year and these are easy kids to root for. It’s fantastic. It’s priceless.
“I love our kids and I’ll go to battle with them every single day. I’m proud of the season we’ve had. I can’t say enough about the character of our team.”
Asked about Caledonia (12-0), Meagher chuckled a bit and said, “That’s a level of a football team that we haven’t seen this year. And we’ve seen some good ones. Caledonia is put together; those kids are physically sound and tough across the board. It’s a great football program and a great team.”Class 4A: Holy Angels Holds off Winona
In a back-and-forth game that wasn’t decided until the final minutes, Holy Angels advanced to the Prep Bowl with a 26-22 victory over Winona.
The Stars led 19-14 before Winona scored on a 31-yard pass from Riley Bosteter to Ethan Ringo to take a 22-19 lead with 7:35 left in the game. Joseph Heimbold’s third touchdown of the game for Holy Angels (11-1), a 23-yard run with 3:50 remaining, provided the game’s final points. Dan Jonsgaard scored two touchdowns for the Winhawks (11-1).
“It was a battle,” said Winona coach John Cassellius. “It was what we talked about a lot. We knew coming in it was going to be a great game. We figured it would be down to the wire and that’s what happened.”Class 6A: Montero Is The Man For Eden Prairie
Antonio Montero carried the load for Eden Prairie, scoring two touchdowns and kicking two field goals and two extra points as the Eagles (12-0) defeated Maple Grove 26-0.
Montero’s scoring made it 20-0 in the fourth quarter before D.J. Johnson ran 19 yards for a touchdown. The Crimson ended the season with a record of 8-4.Tournament Tidbits
--During the third quarter of the game between Spring Grove and Stephen-Argyle, video replay officials in a stadium skybox looked at replays after a fumble. The ball had been awarded to Spring Grove’s defense, but the call was reversed after video was checked. This was the very first time in the nation that video replay was used during a high school football game, and of course someone in the press box complained: “This is taking too long.”
--The referee in the Eden Prairie-Maple Grove game, Jason Berg, is also a college football official. He wore the white cap when St. Thomas and St. John’s played in front of 37,355 fans at Target Field this season. Berg is the principal at Farmington High School.
--Names on the Stephen-Argyle Storm football roster include Yutrzenka, Szczepanski, Safranski, Pietruszewski, Gerszewski, Neuschwander, Kazmierczak and Chwialkowski.
--Quote of The Day: “That’s what high school football’s all about. You come out and you battle with your buddies.” … Winona coach John Cassellius. Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohnMSHSL Football State Semifinals
At U.S. Bank Stadium
Thursday, November 16
Nine-Man: Spring Grove 27, Stephen-Argyle 7
Class 2A: Caledonia 49, Paynesville 16
Class 4A: Holy Angels 26, Winona 22
Class 6A: Eden Prairie 26, Maple Grove 0
Friday, November 17
9 a.m./ Nine-Man: Russell-Tyler-Ruthton (10-2) vs. Nevis (10-1)
1:30 a.m./ Class 2A: Pipestone (11-1) vs. Moose Lake/Willow River (7-5)
2 p.m./ Class 5A: Apple Valley (10-1) vs. Elk River (10-1)
4:30 p.m./ Class 4A: South St. Paul (9-2) vs. Cloquet (11-0)
7 p.m./ Class 6A: Minnetonka (10-1) vs. Cretin-Derham Hall (8-2)
Saturday, November 18
9 a.m./ Class 1A: Wabasso (12-0) vs. Ada-Borup/Norman County West (12-0)
11:30 a.m./ Class 1A: Mayer Lutheran (11-1) vs. Minneota (12-0)
2 p.m./ Class 3A: Jordan (9-3) vs. Pierz (11-0)
4:30 p.m./ Class 3A: St. Croix Lutheran (11-0) vs. Pequot Lakes (9-2)
7 p.m./ Class 5A: Owatonna (10-1) vs. Brainerd (9-2)