Alex Folz turns up the field past Stephen-Argyle defender Wyatt Hamre. The Lion quarterback was the radio Player of the Game after passing for 213 yards and running for 174 at U.S. Bank Stadium. Photo by Jon Speltz
Alex Folz turns up the field past Stephen-Argyle defender Wyatt Hamre. The Lion quarterback was the radio Player of the Game after passing for 213 yards and running for 174 at U.S. Bank Stadium. Photo by Jon Speltz
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For the first time ever, the Spring Grove football team will play for a state 9-Man championship after a 27-7 state semifinal win over Stephen-Argyle Central last Thursday at U.S. Bank Stadium in the Twin Cities. The Lions are 13-0 with one game left in the season, while S-A finished at 11-2.

The No. 1-ranked Lions will face the No. 6 Nevis Tigers (11-1) for the state title in the Prep Bowl this Friday, Nov. 24, back in U.S. Bank Stadium for the second-straight week. Kickoff is at 10 a.m.

The Spring Grove defense was dominant for all but one big play while good balance on offense kept Stephen-Argyle on defense for most of the game. The Lions ran 66 plays to 41 for the Storm with SG nearly doubling S-A in time of possession at 31.50 minutes to 16:10.

Lion coach Zach Hauser said that good balance on offense really keeps the other team guessing, which is a big key to Spring Grove’s success.

While Stephen-Argyle had far more rushing yards (149) than passing (20), the SG offense was much more balanced and effective both on the ground (225 yards) and through the air (213).

Quarterback Alex Folz ran for 174 yards and also completed 16 of 22 passes (outstanding 73%) for 213 yards with no sacks, all while five different Lions caught at least one pass. There was only one turnover, an interception that came late with the final score already up on the board.

Folz was named the KFIL Radio Player of the Game, scoring all four Lion touchdowns on runs of 4, 7, 8, and 14 yards, all while going 3 for 3 on extra-point kicks. The game ended with Folz taking a knee on the Storm 1 yard-line while the final horn sounded.

The S-A Player of the Game, Stoene Spilde, said Folz did a good job of following his blockers and was also very difficult to bring down in the open field.

Folz, averaging 6 yards per carry, gave credit for his success to the offensive line, including Austin Patterson, George Boyd, Taylor Holty and Sam Sanness.

FRUSTRATING START

The game got off to a frustrating start for the Lion offense, which saw an 11-play drive come to an end on downs at the Storm 8 yard-line.

That pain was compounded two plays later as Spilde broke free and sprinted 84 yards for the first touchdown and a 7-0 Stephen-Argyle lead. That gallop wound up accounting for more than half of the Storm’s final 149 yards rushing. Hauser said the long run was a wakeup call for the defense.

“I was very proud of the way our defense played the entire second half,” he said, “and to hold a good running team to 30 yards was impressive.

"The 84-yard touchdown run we gave up on our second defensive play got the defense going. They knew what they did wrong, and that if they didn’t fix it, we weren’t going to win the game.”

The Lions would come right back with another 11-play drive to tie the game at 7.

Three plays and a punt later, Spring Grove had the ball back and took 10 plays to reach the Storm 19 yard-line before S-A blocked a 36-yard field goal attempt. At that point, the game was still tied even though the Lions had run off 32 plays to only 5 for S-A.

The Storm wouldn’t score again all game, but they did threaten to regain the lead just ahead of halftime.

After stopping another Lion fourth-down play at the Storm 28, S-A ran off its only possession that had more than one first down. On a fourth-down play at the Lion 15, Adin Solum picked off a Hunter Yutrzenka pass at the 10, keeping the game tied at halftime.

SECOND HALF SHUTDOWN

The Spring Grove defense was even tougher in the second half, limiting the Storm to just 35 yards of offense. The Lions stopped 2 fourth-down plays, held Stephen-Argyle to only 4-of-12 on third down conversion attempts and forced the Storm to punt on 6 of 9 total possessions.

Hauser gave a lot of credit to nose guard and KFIL Game Ball Award winner George Boyd for controlling the middle of the line of scrimmage. He broke up a pass and had 8 tackles, 1.5 for loss, including a half-sack.

Folz was the top tackler with 11 stops (7 solo). Taylor Holty had 8 tackles, including a solo QB sack.

The S-A offense lost yardage on called pass plays. Yutrzenka lost 25 yards with 2 sacks while gaining only 20 yards on 2 completed passes (2 for 10) in addition to the interception.

While all the Lion TDs came on runs, half of them were set up by pass plays. SG appeared to have a passing score when Noah Elton (6 catches, 126 yards) took a short sideline pass and ran it 87 yards to the end zone, but the play was nullified by the only Lion penalty of the game.

On the very next play (from the Lion 7 yard-line), Elton caught a long pass in stride for 53 yards. Two plays later, Folz hit Solum with a 30-yard completion along the sidelines to the Storm 7. Folz ran it in on the next play, and after their first possession of the second half, SG was up 14-7. It was the third scoring drive of 90 yards or more and the fourth of 85-plus yards in the last two games.

After an S-A three-and-out, Spring Grove needed only 5 plays to score again with four straight Folz completions leading up to his 8-yard run to make it 21-7.

Another 5-play possession covered 79 yards as Folz passed for 23 yards and ran for another 56 to complete a 20-point third quarter, all but putting the game away.

After the Lions had been intercepted at the Storm 17, the Spring Grove defense stopped a fourth-down play with a Sanness tackle-for-loss.

The Lions snapped the ball 8 more times to close out the game, taking a knee at the Storm 1 yard-line on the final play.

Elton became only the third Lion with more than 800 receiving yards in a single season. The Lions' one penalty was the fewest in the last 28 games. Talk about a clean game. Each team only had one penalty, which is now 1 of only 2 games with that few penalties in the 16 years for which there are single-game statistics.

As if that’s not enough, for the fifth time in the 13-game season, Spring Grove didn’t punt once. Five busloads of Lion fans saw Spring Grove win a playoff game in which the Lions didn’t score first but did score last.

Hauser said playing at U.S. Bank Stadium was a great experience for everyone.

“We were lucky enough to get on the field early,” he said, “and before getting dressed, everyone was able to take their phones out onto the field to take it all in. I thought this was great because the next time they came out onto the field, they were ready to play football.”



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SG 27, Stephen-Argyle 7

SG---0--7--20--0 = 27

SA---7--0---0---0 = 7

TEAM TOTALS

YARDAGE - (rush+pass): SG 438 (225+213); SA 169 (149+20)

RUSHING - att.-yards (avg.): SG 44-225 (5.1) 4 TD; SA 31-149 (4.8)

PASSES - comp-att-int, yds. (TD): SG 16-22-1, 213 yds.; SA 2-10-1, 20 yds.

SACKS allowed: SG 0, SA 2

TDs: SG 4 rush, SA 1 rush

PAT: SG 3-4 (kick 3-3, pass 0-1); SA 1-1 (kick 1-1)

TOTAL PLAYS: SG 66, SA 41

YARDS per PLAY: SG 6.6, SA 4.1

FUMBLES - LOST: SG 3-0, SA 0-0

TURNOVERS: SG 1, SA 1

PENALTIES: SG 1-6, SA 1-5

3rd downs: SG 6-12, SA 4-12

4th downs: SG 2-5, SA 0-2

Red zone: SG 4-7, SA 0-1

First downs: SG 22, SA 6

Plays of 20+ yards: 5, SA 1

>>INDIVIDUALS:

RUSHING:Alex Folz 29-174, 4TD, long 22; Cullen Patterson 12-36, long 15; Noah Elton 2-16; team knee 1-(-1)

PASSING: Alex Folz 16-22-1, 213 yds.

RECEIVING: Noah Elton 6-126, long 53; Adin Solum 4-44, long 30; Cullen Patterson 1-18; Luke Schneider 3-16; Sam Sanness 2-9

PUNTING: None

XP KICKING: Alex Folz 3-3

FG KICKING: Alex Folz 0-1

INTERCEPTIONS: Adin Solum 1-11

PASS BREAKUPS: Ethan Matzke 1, Cullen Patterson 1, Adin Solum 1, George Boyd 1

SACKS 2.0: Taylor Holty 1.0, Ethan Matzke 0.5, George Boyd 0.5

TACKLES for LOSS (incl. sacks): George Boyd 1.5, Taylor Holty 1.0, Sam Sanness 1.0, Ethan Matzke 0.5

TACKLES (solo+assists): Alex Folz 11 (7+4), Taylor Holty 8 (5+3), George Boyd 8 (3+5), Luke Schneider 7 (3+4), Ethan Matzke 6 (2+4), Cullen Patterson 3 (2+1), Reese Crouch 2 (2+0), Adin Solum 1 (1+0), Noah Elton 1 (1+0)

KICKOFF RETURNS: Cullen Patterson 2-37

PUNT RETURNS: Noah Elton 2-19, Alex Folz 1-14

SCORING: Alex Folz 20

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Spring Grove Varsity Football

13 wins, 0 losses (7-0 East Sub-district)

W vs. Cleveland/Immanuel Lutheran 52-51 (OT)

W at Lyle/Pacelli 70-6

W vs. Mabel-Canton 50-16

W at Randolph 53-7

W vs. Lanesboro 60-14

W at Houston 26-6

W vs. Grand Meadow 33-20

W at LeRoy-Ostrander 49-14

SECTION: Spring Grove 64, Lyle/Pacelli 20

SECTION: Spring Grove 40, Grand Meadow 17

SECTION: Spring Grove 36, Cleveland/Immanuel Lutheran 35

STATE: Spring Grove 34, Verndale 6

STATE: Spring Grove 27, Stephen-Argyle 7

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Spring Grove B-Team Football

3 wins, 1 loss

W vs. Mabel-Canton 40-8

L at Grand Meadow 6-20

W vs. LeRoy-Ostrander 72-0

W at Randolph 22-6

10/09 at Houston, canceled

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Spring Grove/Mabel-Canton/North Winneshiek Junior High Football

1 win, 5 losses, 1 tie

W vs. Lyle/Pacelli 24-12

L at Grand Meadow 0-38

L vs. LeRoy-Ostrander 0-44

L vs. Lansing Kee 6-48

L at Randolph 0-32

T vs. Houston 7-7

L vs. Lanesboro 7-26

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Spring Grove/Mabel-Canton Sixth/Fifth Grade Football

5 wins, 0 losses

W vs. Winona Orange 26-0

W vs. Lewiston 28-0

W vs. Winona Black 21-6

W vs. Cochrane-Fountain City 34-9

W vs. Houston 33-0

W. Winona Orange 41-0

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