LeRoy-Ostrander scores late, stuns Spring Grove, 53-22

UPPER LEFT: Carson Gavin wraps up Cardinal quarterback Chase Johnson with Lion teammate Kyle Hagen approaching. These were the leading tacklers with 11 stops for Gavin and 10 for Hagen. RIGHT: Caden Grinde (left) and Chandler Bergrud defend pass intended for Riley Olson. Both Bergrud and Grinde would have interceptions in the game against LeRoy-Ostrander. LOWER LEFT: Isaac Griffin scored with a 41-yard pass reception and 10-yard run. Photos by Cheryl Patterson
S. Lee Epps

Turnovers and tackles - Spring Grove had two many of the former and far too few of the latter. 

Rival coaches expected LeRoy-Ostrander to be improved over last year's two-win team. The Cardinals came in ranked No. 11 in the first state poll after dealing a decisive 28th straight setback to lowly Lyle/Pacelli. But would they be able to contend with the more successful programs? The answer thus far is yes after ending Spring Grove's 29-game winning streak with a stunning 53-22 decision last Friday night. 

The Lions were state-ranked No.2 in the first 9-man poll, even after a perilously close call in the season opener against a team that had lost 16 straight games. 

Early shootout

The first half was a back-and-forth offensive showcase. After a Chandler Bergrud interception  at the Lion 11 had halted a 12-play, 50-yard opening L-O possession, there would be no more defensive heroics before halftime while the teams traded touchdowns - three each.

L-O won the first half 23-22 and then the second half 30-0. But it was still a one score margin (29-22) going into the fourth quarter - before the roof caved in with four more L-O touchdowns.

After scoring on their first three possessions, the Lion offense suffered through a few minor injuries and six turnovers.

The Redbirds started the second half with two turnovers, but they revived to score on five straight possessions to turn a first-half stalemate into a second-stanza runaway.

Spring Grove defenders had been out of position to make plays in the previous week's season opener. Coach Zach Hauser said the boys had improved to be in position against L-O, but sadly, did not execute the tackles.

Before the Lions' second-half collapse, there were plenty of offensive fireworks. The boys in black went 89 yards in 9 plays with Bergrud hitting Isaac Griffin with a 41-yard scoring pass. Mitchell Reynolds ran in the two-point conversion, and it was 8-0.

Elation was short-lived as Isaac Collier tight-roped the sideline while returning the ensuing kickoff 79 yards.

Grove broke the 8-8 tie with a 6-play, 70-yard scoring drive that featured three more completions. Carter Bratland latched on to an 11-yard laser in the end zone. Caden Grinde made a great leaping two-point conversion catch in the back corner of the end zone; it was 16-8.

After a short kickoff, L-O answered with a 6-play, 51-yard possession with quarterback Chase Johnson running in from the eight and then again for the two-point conversion. It was 16-all.

The Lions then drove 81 yards in nine plays with Griffin scoring on a 10-yard misdirection carry.

On a third-down-and-27 play, Carter Johnson raced 50 yards to the Lion 10. Chase Johnson scored on the next play, and Gavin Sweeney booted the extra point to put L-O ahead for the first time, 23-22, four minutes before halftime.

The L-O defense held for the first time, forcing a Lion punt just before the teams went into halftime.

Sad saga second half

In the second half for Spring Grove, it would be four lost fumbles, two interceptions and two punts.

Nevertheless, Reynolds finished with a 191 yards on 21 carries (9.1 yards per carry) - his second stellar performance after 146 yards in the opener. 

Bergrud completed 14 of 24 passes (58%) for 203 yards and two touchdowns along with two interceptions.

Grinde had more than one acrobatic grab, finishing with seven catches for 63 yards. Six different Lions had receptions - two each by Kyle Hagen (34 yards), Griffin (TD) and Reynolds (11 yards) along with one each for Carson Gavin and Bratland (TD). 

Gavin's amazing 42-yard juggling grab - while being tackled from behind - was the Lion highlight of the second half. Gavin was also the leading tackler with 11 stops along with 10 for Hagen and 8 for Grinde. Grinde also had a 35-yard interception return.

But there were not enough tackles as Chase Johnson rumbled for 223 yards on 17 carries, including two 50-yard scampers in addition to the 71-yard TD sprint. 

Carter Johnson took 19 handoffs for 134 yards and six - yes a half-dozen touchdowns covering 10, 5, 29, 5, 3 and 6 yards.

Chase Johnson was intercepted twice (Bergrud and Grinde) but also completed 4 of 9 passes for 79 yards.

His 60-yard strike to Tanner Kasel down to the Lion 5 yard-line led to a 29-22 count after three quarters. It was still a one-score margin until the disastrous fourth period.

The Cardinals would score on 81 and 73-yard possessions, but they also had to go only five yards after a sack and Lion fumble.

Sweeney returned an interception 47 yards down to the 10 yard-line to set up the final touchdown with 2:51 to play.

The visitors outgained the Lions by only 58 yards of total offense (433 to 375). Spring Grove held a 203 to 79 advantage through the air. But despite Reynolds' 191 yards, the Lions' negative yardage allowed L-O to out-rush Spring Grove 354 to 170.


It was a long-awaited and sweet role reversal for the Cardinals, who had dropped their last 12 decisions against Spring Grove by an average score of 58-18. The Lions won last year, 63-38.

The series is now tied at 13 wins apiece. It was the Cards' most decisive win against the Lions since a 54-6 demolition in 1994. 

L-O, which did not even field a varsity team in 2015, had an 8-19 record during the last three years before opening at 2-0 this season.

For Spring Grove, the 31-point margin was the most lop-sided setback since a 54-11 loss to eventual state champion Houston in 2008. It was the first regular season loss to someone besides Grand Meadow since opening the 5-5 season of 2009 with successive losses to Lanesboro, Mabel-Canton and Houston.

There was no B-team game last week, but the Spring Grove/Mabel-Canton junior high boys fell to Kingsland 33-0.

This week

The Lions (1-1, 0-1 East) play at Mabel-Canton (0-2, 0-2 East) on Friday the 13th. Last Friday, the Cougars were besieged by big-yardage plays in a 38-14 loss at Southland.


Grand Meadow…2-0 (2-0 season)

Southland……….2-0 (2-0 season)

LeRoy-Ostrander 2-0 (2-0 season)

Lanesboro………1-0 (1-1 season)

Houston…………1-1 (1-1 season)

Spring Grove…..0-1 (1-1 season)

Mabel-Canton…..0-2 (0-2 season)

Kingsland……….0-2 (0-2 season)

Lyle/Pacelli……..0-2 (0-2 season)


Spring Grove Football 2019

7 p.m. kickoff / home games in bold, *sub-district games 

1-1 (0-1 sub-district)

W at GHEC/Truman 30-28     

L vs. LeRoy-Ostrander*22-53         

09/13   at Mabel-Canton*        

09/20   Kingsland*

09/27   at Houston*     

10/04   Grand Meadow*

10/11   at Lyle/Pacelli* (Lyle)

10/16   Southland*


B-team football

1 win, 0 losses

W at Houston 26-8


SG/Mabel-Canton junior high football

0 wins, 2 losses

L vs. Kingsland 0-33

L at Houston 0-7