Lions win again clash between No. 1 teams

ABOVE: Alex Folz (left) follows block from Kyle Hagen. Folz rushed for 176 yards and three touchdowns and also passed for 217 yards and two more TDs during state-ranked showdown versus Houston. BELOW: Takoda Boyd (#10) fights off a blocker in time bring down Houston running back Joey Fishel. It was one of 17 tackles by the Spring Grove senior cornerback in the high-stakes win against the Hurricanes. Photos by S. Lee Epps
By : 
S. Lee Epps

For the second straight season, the only two Houston County 9-man football teams produced a state showcase contest. This sub-district showdown featured state No. 1 in the Associated Press poll Spring Grove versus No. 1 in the QRF computer poll Houston. (The Hurricanes came in at No. 5 in the AP with the Lions ranked No. 2 by the computer).

 There was no repeat of last year's monsoon, mud bath and lightning delay, but the Lions (6-0) again prevailed by a comfortable margin, this year 35-14 at Spring Grove Homecoming on Oct. 5.

For SG, it was four, three, two one, zero. There were only four penalties, three critical fourth-down stops, two interceptions, the No. 1-ranked quarterback in the sub-district and zero turnovers.

Alex Folz ran (176 yards) and passed (217 yards) the Hurricanes into submission while Noah Elton had double-digit receptions for 100-plus yards for the second straight game. The senior slot receiver snared 10 passes for 11 yards.

Senior cornerback Takoda Boyd harassed the Hurricane attack with a career-high 17 tackles (10 solo), and Folz was in on 15 stops, Elton 11 and Kyle Hagen 11.

Hagen and Chandler Bergrud each picked off a pass while Boyd and Folz each broke up a pass.

Hagen's interception was a huge hindrance to Hurricane championship hopes, coming at the Houston 43 in the final minute of the first half. Three plays later, Folz threw deep - 38 yards to Caden Grinde. The sophomore's first varsity TD grab extended a one-score Lion lead into a two-touchdown margin (20-6) just 19 seconds before halftime. 

After scoring on their last snap of the first half, the Lions also scored on their first snap of the second half. One play after stopping the 'Canes on fourth down (one yard short) at the SG 27, Folz raced 73 yards to make it 27-6.

That was the third rushing TD for Folz after scoring on one and four-yard runs as SG went up 13-0.

The Lions drove 69 and 68 yards for those scores on their first two possessions. A 50-yard pass play to Kai Bjerke on the game's second play (down to the Houston 16) set up the first touchdown. 

Then 10, 17 and 15-yard tosses to Elton led to the second score.

In between, the 'Canes - on their first possession - put together a 15-play drive that ran out of downs at the Lion 32.

Long clock-consuming marches by Houston was the key to keeping the ball away from Folz and the explosive Spring Grove attack. 

The strategy was successful in limiting the Lions to only eight possessions. The teams' combined 15 possessions are the fewest in a SG game in eight years (2010).

But one major problem for the Hurricanes was field position. Although they had first downs on every viable possession, their average starting point was their own 29 yard-line. 

Houston (5-1, 4-1 sub-district) moved the ball and was outgained overall by only 65 yards, but could not complete enough long drives to keep up with the Lions, who scored on five of their eight possessions.

The 'Canes never punted but lost the turnover battle 2 to 0 and were held on downs three times (twice one yard short) - after reaching the SG 32, 27 and 23 yard-lines.

The outcome was most in doubt when Houston quarterback James Hongerholt broke free for a 51-yard TD run to cut the Lion lead to 13-6 with just under six minutes before halftime.

But the two SG scores on either side of intermission were backbreakers, making it 27-6.

Hongerholt broke away again for what would have been a 56-yard TD run, except for an illegal blocking penalty far behind the play. The 'Canes still had a first down at the Lion 30; but on fourth down, Boyd tackled Jaytin Millen one yard short of a first down.

Folz then passed and ran the Lions for 79 yards, capped by an 11-yard TD pass to Boyd. After tossing to Boyd again on what began as a botched extra-point kicking try, SG led 35-6.

It took Houston 10 plays to go 59 yards for the game's final score, a 14-yard Hongerholt pass to Millen.

Averaging 6.6 pass attempts per game, Hongerholt took to the air 10 times versus SG, completing only four for 62 yards while being intercepted twice.

Houston is a run-first team with 81% of its yardage gained on the ground through the first five games. It was 82% versus SG. Hongerholt carried 15 times for 126 yards and handed off to Millen 21 times (85 yards) and to Joey Fishel 14 times (68 yards). 

The Lions were much more balanced, rushing for 200 yards (Folz 176 yards, 3 TDs) and Folz completing 15 of 23 passes (65%) for 217 yards (2 TDs). Folz was 3 for 3 on extra point kicks.

SG scored on drives traversing 69, 68, 43, 73 and 79 yards. The Lions converted 5 of 9 third down plays, including a third-and 16 with a 16-yard pass to Elton. The Lions scored twice on third-down plays.

SG was again without injured starting running back Tyler Kersten.

It was the 11th straight triumph for the Lions in a series they now lead 38-30 with 2 ties.

After having blanked the Hurricanes 28-0, the Lion B-team (4-0) completed an unbeaten season with a 38-12 road win at LeRoy-Ostrander.

The SG/Mabel-Canton junior high guys (3-2) dropped a home decision to Randolph 13-7. O Saturday morning, Houston defeated the SG/M-C sixth grade Morrey Miller squad 18-13.


The undefeated Lions travel to once-beaten Grand Meadow (5-1, 4-1 sub-district) on Friday, Oct. 12 before closing the regular season back at Blayne Onsgard Memorial Field on Wednesday, Oct. 17 against LeRoy-Ostrander.



RUSHING: Alex Folz 25-176, 3TD; Carter Holty 3-26; Team knees 2-(-2)

PASSING: Folz 15-23-0, 217 yds. 2 TD

RECEIVING: Noah Elton 10-111, long 17 ; Ethan Matzke 1-7; Kai Bjerke 2-50, long 50; Caden Grinde 1-38, TD; Takoda Boyd 1-11, TD +PAT 

XP KICKING: Folz 3-3, Team 0-1

PUNTING: Alex Folz 2-58 (29.0)

INTERCEPTIONS: Kyle Hagen 1 , Chandler Bergrud 1-16 yds.

PASS BREAKUPS: Takoda Boyd 1, Alex Folz 1

TACKLES for LOSS (incl. sacks): Ethan Matzke 1, Noah Elton 1

TACKLES (solo+assists): Takoda Boyd 17 (10+7), Alex Folz 15 (7+8), Noah Elton 11 (5+6), Kyle Hagen 11 (3+8), Kai Bjerke 7 (2+5), Calvin Sylling 5 (2+3), Chandler Bergrud 4 (4+0), Caden Grinde 1 (1+0), Tristan Hammel 1 (1+0), Wyatt Murphy 1 (0+1)

KICKOFF RETURNS: Carter Holty 1-12


YARDAGE (rush+pass): SG 417 (200+217), Hou 352 (290+62) 

RUSHING: att.-yards (avg.): SG 30-200 (6.7) 3TD; Hou 51-290 (5.7) TD 

PASSES: comp-att-int, yds.:SG 15-23-0, 217 yds. 2TD; Hou 4-12-2, 62 yds. TD 

Sacks allowed: SG 0, Hou 0 

TD: SG 3 rush, 2 pass; Hou 1 rush, 1 pass

PAT:  SG 4-5 (3-4 kick, 1-1 pass, 0-1 run); Hou 1-2 (1-2 run) 

TOTAL PLAYS: SG 53, Hou 63 

YDS/PLAY: SG 7.9, Hou 5.6 

FUMBLES - LOST: SG 2-0, Hou 1-0 


PENALTIES: SG 4-35, Hou 8-48

3rd downs: SG 5-9, Hou 7-13

4th downs: SG 1-1, Hou 3-6 

Red zone: SG 2-2, Hou 1-1 

First downs: SG 18, Hou 18

Plays/20+ yards: SG 4, Hou 3




Spring Grove………..5-0 (6-0 season)

Houston……………....4-1 (5-1season)

Grand Meadow…….4-1 (5-1 season)

Randolph……………..3-2 (4-2 season)

Mabel-Canton………2-3 (3-3 season)

Lanesboro…………...2-3 (3-3 season)

LeRoy-Ostrander…0-5 (1-5 season)

Lyle/Pacelli…………0-5 (0-6 season)



VARSITY FOOTBALL*East Sub-district games

6-0 (5-0 sub-district)

W at Cleveland/Immanuel Lutheran 56-12

W vs. *Lyle/Pacelli 62-16

W *at Mabel-Canton 54-12

W vs. *Randolph 46-28

W*at Lanesboro 49-16

W vs.*Houston (Homecoming) 35-14

Fri. 10/12……*at Grand Meadow

Wed. 10/17…….*LeRoy-Ostrander



4-0 Final record

at Randolph, cancelled

W vs. Grand Meadow 22-6

W at Mabel-Canton 30-0 (game called by lightning in second quarter)

W vs. Houston 28-0

W at LeRoy-Ostrander 38-12


Spring Grove/Mabel-Canton Junior High football 


W vs. Houston 39-0

W at LeRoy-Ostrander5 32-20

W vs. Lyle/Pacelli 20-19

L at Lanesboro 12-40

L vs. Randolph 7-13