Lion boys earn All-State, All-Area football acclaim

TOP LEFT: Alex Folz (All-State, 2nd year; All-Area 2nd year; Lion MVP, 2nd year; SG Leadership Award); TOP CENTER: Ethan Matzke (All-State, 2nd year; All-Area; SG Lineman of the Year; TOP RIGHT: Noah Elton (All-State; Honorable Mention All-Area, 2nd year); MIDDLE LEFT: Takoda Boyd (Honorable Mention All-State); MIDDLE RIGHT: Kyle Hagen (SG Defensive Player of the Year); LOWER LEFT: Kai Bjerke (SG Rookie of the Year); LOWER RIGHT: Tristan Hammel (Scout Team Player of the Year, 2nd year). Photos by S. Lee Epps
By : 
S. Lee Eps

Seniors Ethan Matzke, Alex Folz and Noah Elton were all named to the coaches’ 9-Man Football All-State Team with Takoda Boyd receiving honorable mention as awards and honors continue to roll in for Spring Grove's 9-man football state championship players.

The Post Bulletin All-Area Team included Folz and Matzke among only 12 defensive players with Elton receiving honorable mention. 

The Lions also voted team awards to five players with Folz the choice for Most Valuable Player for the second straight year.

All of this came on the heels of last week's coverage of All-District honors going to seven Lions.

FOLZ, a 5-for-10, 195-pound senior quarterback/safety/kicker, is a finalist for Minnesota's prestigious 2018 Mr. Football honor.

He has received  many top honors, several of them twice. He is All-District for a third season and also repeats as All-State, All-Area, District Back of the Year and Lion MVP. His 2018 teammates also voted him the Outstanding Leader Award.

"Alex was the most dynamic player in the state," said Lion offensive coordinator Kody Moore." His ability to run and pass made him a nightmare to try to defend. He will go down as one of the best all around high school football players ever."

Folz has rewritten the Spring Grove record book, breaking seven single-season records this season.

As the all-time record holder in both passing yardage (7,101) and rushing yardage (6,247), he is therefore the career leader in total offense, having accounted for 13,348 yards.

He is the program's all-time leader and also single season leader in eight statistical categories, including rushing touchdowns, passing touchdowns, passing percentage, scoring and all-purpose running (rushing, receiving, returns).

On defense, his 13 career interception total is one short of the career record, and he ranks third all-time with 347 tackles. 

This season, he was the team leader with 6 interceptions and 3 forced fumbles and shared the team lead with 5 pass breakups. He was this year's second leading tackler with 116 stops.

Folz also broke single game records with 402 yards passing versus Mabel-Canton (2016), 6 touchdown passes vs. Cleveland/Immanuel Lutheran (2018) and 26 pass completions versus Cromwell-Wright in the state semi-finals (2018). He also tied a single-game rushing record with 353 yards against LeRoy-Ostrander (2018).

"Alex was the most dynamic player in the state," said Lion offensive coordinator Kody Moore. "His ability to run and pass made him a nightmare to try to defend. He will go down as one of the best all around high school football players ever. "

MATZKE, a 6-3 tight end/wide receiver/defensive end, will play this weekend for the south team at the Minnesota All-Star Showcase.

He is another two-time All-State selection and also twice named All-District Lineman of the Year.

Matzke is an All-Area Defensive Lineman after receiving honorable mention last year and was voted the Lions' Lineman of the Year by his teammates.

He graduates third on the all-time sack list with 20.5.

"Most teams ran away from Ethan," said head coach Zach Hauser. "He has been our best defensive player each of the last two seasons; he controls one side of the field. He was our best blocker and a big target at tight end."

On offense, Matzke was most often a blocker, but he was also the team's second leading receiver this season (27 catches, 474 yards, 8 touchdowns).

He graduates tied for third all-time with 19 touchdown catches, fifth all-time with 1,058 receiving yards and ranks sixth with 65 total receptions.  He averaged 16.3 yards per career catch.

"Ethan was an absolute monster and controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball," added Moore. "Teams ran away from him as much as they could, and he was still able to impact the game."

ELTON, a 5-11 two-time All-District wide receiver and linebacker, is All-State offense as a senior after receiving honorable mention as a junior. He receives Honorable Mention All-Area for the second season.

He graduates with all three career receiving records - 2,198 yards. 161 receptions and 27 touchdown catches. He averaged 13.7 yards per reception.

He ranks seventh all-time with 3,696 yards of all-purpose running (receptions, rushing, returns).

 This year, Elton broke a single season record with 75 pass receptions and tied for the second best season with 11 touchdown catches. 

Considering yardage, he has two of the four best seasons on record. His 892 receiving yards in 2018 is the third best season, dropping his 829-yard junior season into fourth place.

On defense in 2018, Elton led SG with 13 tackles for loss and was fourth in total tackles with 95.

On special teams, Elton was the designated return man, averaging 20.2 yards per kickoff return with one touchdown.

"Noah was a threat to score every time he got his hands on the ball," said Moore. "He seemed to always make plays at the most critical moments throughout games when we needed them the most. He is undoubtedly one of the best receivers in Spring Grove history." 

BOYD, a 6-0, 160-pound, senior tight end/wide receiver/corner back, received Honorable Mention All-State after previously being named All-District.

He averaged 16.1 yards per reception while catching 15 passes for 241 yards and 3 touchdowns. He had two scoring grabs in the state semi-final win.

Boyd led the Lions with 3 fumble recoveries, shared the team lead with 5 pass breakups and was the Lion's third leading tackler with 111, including 7.5 for loss. He intercepted 4 passes. 

"Takoda was most likely the best tackling corner in the state," said Moore. "The toughness and grit that he played with set the tone for our defense and helped take us to the next level."

"Takoda is the complete team player," added Hauser. "He will do anything that helps the team."

KYLE HAGEN, a 6-0, 170-pound, junior offensive guard/linebacker, was the Lions' choice for Defensive Player of the Year. 

He led Spring Grove in total tackles (146), sacks (5.5) and blocked punts (3). He recovered 2 fumbles and returned an interception 76 yards for a touchdown.

With a season of eligibility remaining, Hagen already ranks among the top 10 in career sacks (6.5).

" Kyle was a tackling machine at middle linebacker," said Hauser while also praising his work ethic in the weight room.

KAI BJERKE, a 6-0, 180-pound wide receiver/linebacker, was voted the Spring Grove Rookie of the Year for his outstanding contributions while returning to football.

"Kai didn't look like a first year player on the field," said Hauser.  "He caught on really fast and was a difference maker for us on both sides of the ball."

He had 24 receptions for 6 touchdowns, including a game-saving and season-saving end zone catch in the state quarterfinals.

On defense, he shared the team lead with 5 pass break-ups and also contributed 2 interceptions and 6 tackles for loss.

TRISTAN HAMMEL, a 5-11, 150-pound offensive and defensive lineman, was voted for the second straight season the Spring Grove Scout Team Player of the Year.

“Tristan will never get accused being the biggest guy on the field, but he is as hard working and as fierce as any I’ve coached," said line coach Kaare Sanness. "Hence the back to back scout team awards and lettering as a sophomore.  

“He was instrumental during the regular season both on special teams and our pass rush package along with giving our two-way starters a rest."

Even in a reserve role, Hammel was second on the team with 9.5 tackles for loss and tied for second with 4 sacks. He was in on 54 tackles.

In four B-team games, he averaged 13 tackles a game while leading the B-Lions in tackles (52), tackles for loss (6), sacks (3) and blocked punts (1). 


Folz received his fourth varsity football letter while Elton and Matzke are three-year letter winners. Earning their second letters were senior Calvin Sylling along with juniors Hagen, Wyatt Murphy, Chandler Bergrud and Tyler Kersten.

First-year letter winners are seniors Bjerke, Boyd and CJ Sylling plus junior Carter Holty along with sophomores Hammel and Caden Grinde.


Drew Wyffels of Mabel-Canton was also an All-State defender and All-Area defensive back. 

Houston's Joey Fishel was an All-Area defensive lineman, and Nick McCabe of Caledonia was an All-Area linebacker..

Mabel-Canton's Blake Henry received Honorable Mention on both the All-State and All-Area teams. Seven Caledonia players received Honorable Mention All-Area.