2018-19: Best sports year ever for Spring Grove athletes

McKenzie Fisch returns serve, observed by Hattie Sanness, during first day of 2019 volleyball practice as Spring Grove returns to the court after a record 27 wins in 2018-19. Photo by S. Lee Epps

There is certainly a case to be made that the sensational and sometimes unprecedented success in 2018-19 made it the most outstanding school year ever for Spring Grove High School athletes. 

There were repeat state championships in both football and trap. In boys basketball, it was the first state tournament appearance and a ninth straight conference crown. 

There was the first postseason baseball championship in 40 years, and there were more volleyball victories than ever before. 

There were two state championships, four conference crowns and two section titles. Extraordinary winning streaks were extended in football and boys basketball.

And Wade Grinde was named 2019 State Class A Basketball Coach of the Year.

For the first time, the Female Athlete of the Year, Mariah Edgington, and the Male Athlete of the Year, Alex Folz, were both All-State, Academic All-Stateand Conference Players of the Year. 

There were six All-State selections and one receiving Honorable Mention, involving four of the six stand-alone teams in Spring Grove. Three Lion seniors signed letters of intent to play college ball.

Football: 14-0 state champion (7-0 sub-district champion)

A second straight state championship extended the Spring Grove winning streak to a record 28 games. 

As in the first state title season, there was only one close call last fall. On a colder-than-frigid, wind-swept night in the state quarterfinal at New Ulm, the Lions scored the winning touchdown with an 18-yard pass with 39 seconds to play. But it took an interception on the final play to seal the 27-26 win over Russell-Tyler-Ruthton.

The other 13 wins all came by at least 21 points, including a 48-12 state semi-final romp and a 40-18 blowout in the state title game.

A 7-0 sub-district record, during an 8-0 regular season, brought a second straight East Sub-District championship.

Ethan Matzke repeated as Sub-district Lineman of the Year, and Folz repeated as Back of the Year. They were both All-Statefor the second year and were joined in 2019 by Noah Elton on the 9-Man All-State Teamwith Takoda Boyd receiving Honorable Mention.

Folz was the Spring Grove MVPfor the second year and the only 9-man finalist for Minnesota's Mr. Football. And Matzke was a team captain while playing in the state All-Star Showcase Game.

Matzke accepted a scholarship to play at University of Minnesota-Duluth while Folz signed with University of Minnesota - Crookston.

Boys Basketball: 25-5 (14-0 SEC East champ)

It was the most successful season in program history with a post-game trophy celebration in front a packed college gymnasium - at the state tournament. 

Many of those football boys also helped bring home another state trophy after a thrilling overtime win in the Class A State Third Place game.

An experienced cast of playmakers found ways to make plays when it really counted - at the end of closely contested games - especially in postseason tournament play. 

It was the Lions' eighth straight 20-win season, but it was the very first section crown and trip to the state tournament, where they dispatched both the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds. They lost to the No. 4 seed and eventual state champion.

Spring Grove captured an unprecedented ninth straight SEC East Division championship, having won 74 consecutive conference games. The boys have won 138 of their last 140 SEC games

Folz was Conference Player of the Yearand Spring Grove MVP- both for a second season. 

Trap shooting: State champion, conference champ

The co-ed clay target crew won a third straight state championship - 2019 and 2017 in Class 1A and 2018 in Class 2A. In a shootout involving all nine classes, Spring Grove placed 33rd. 

The Lions had claimed their second straight fall conference championship and then a third consecutive spring conference crown by a wide margin before their postseason pursuit. There is nothing beyond conference competition in the fall.

Junior Brandon Anderson was All-Statewith one of the spring’s top 100 scoring averages among all nine classes during the regular conference season.

In the fall season, CJ Sylling tied with the highest season average among conference boys. In the spring, the two highest-scoring boys in the conference were Anderson and Takoda Boyd. The top three conference girls were all from Spring Grove - Ashlyn Hammel, Marie Petersen and Hailey Conway.

Volleyball: 27-4 (12-2 SEC, 2nd East)

In respect to wins, it was the most successful season in Lion volleyball history - with a record 27 volleyball victories. All four losses came against state-ranked teams. 

Spring Grove upset two state-ranked clubs. The girls snapped a 59-match, 22-year losing streak versus state-ranked Mabel-Canton and later ended a 15-match, 17-year losing slide versus state-ranked Caledonia.

The Lions won both regular season tournaments (Mabel-Canton and Waukon) and advanced to the finals of a postseason (sub-section) tourney for the first time in 17 years.

Senior Mariah Edgington was the first SG volleyball player to be All-State (First Team)and only the second to be Conference Player of the Year. She was also Academic All-State, First Team All-Areaand Lion Impact Player (MVP).She signed to play college volleyball at Minnesota State Mankato.

Baseball: 16-8 (9-5 SEC, 3rd)

The 16 baseball wins were the most in program history, including a record 7-0 start. A later seven-game winning streak led to the first playoff win in 11 years and the Sub-section 1A East title - first postseason baseball championship in 40 years. The Lions finished as runner-up in the four-team section tournament.

Pitching was a strength with the best team earned run average (1.99) in the record book.

Folz - four-time All-Sectionand three-time All-SEC- was the first Lion named to the coaches All-State Baseball Team. The senior also was Academic All-State.

Junior Carter Bratland - three-year All-Section, three-year All-SECand 2019 All-Areawas voted three of the five team-vote awards, including Most Valuable.

Girls basketball:10-12 (6-7 SEC, 3rd East)

With four losses to state-ranked teams, the Lions (10-12) finished one win under .500 on the season and for the second consecutive year 6-7 in conference play.

The Lions won three of five games against larger class schools - Class AA La Crescent-Hokah and two Iowa Class AAAA clubs, Decorah and Charles City. 

Surely memorable was a 55-42 win in the Target Center versus LeRoy-Ostrander. Also satisfying was a second-half surge and second straight win against Rushford-Peterson, 61-47..

The girls outscored the opponents from both the free throw line and beyond the 3-point arc, but they were outscored overall due to a deficit in 2-point field goals, greatly due to rebounds and fast-break layups.

Junior guard Amelia Solum was Second Team All-Conferenceand for the second straight season, the Lion Most Valuable Player.


While there are six stand-alone sports in Spring Grove, there are also six shared sports that are hosted by Caledonia.

Gymnastics 0-9

Freshman Brianna Johnson was the lone Lion gymnast, but she was a major contributor with the team's highest individual score at the section meet (8.2 on vault). Caledonia/Spring Grove/Houston (0-9 duals) did not outscore the opposition, but the girls saw team scores improve throughout the season.

Girls soccer 2-12-3

Senior defender Emily Guberud, closing her high school career, was one of two Spring Grove girls on the pitch for C/SG/H.

Boys soccer 0-14

Six Spring Grove boys saw considerable action for C/SG/H. They were all young - three sophomores, one freshman, an eighth grader and a seventh grader.


7-12 (5-7 TRC, 4th East) 

There were two Spring Grove girls, one freshman on the junior varsity and one junior high player for Cal/SG. 

Girls, boys Track & field

One Spring Grove junior high boy saw limited action in track and field meets for C/SG.