Matzke, Folz repeat top awards; seven Lions honored

TOP LEFT: Alex Folz (Back of Year, 2nd yr.; All-District, 3rd yr.) TOP CENTER: Ethan Matzke (Lineman of Year, 2nd yr.; All-District, 2nd yr.) TOP RIGHT: Noah Elton (All-District, 2nd yr.) MIDDLE LEFT: Kyle Hagen (All-District) MIDDLE RIGHT: Takoda Boyd (All-District) LOWER LEFT: Calvin Sylling (Hon. Mention All-District) LOWER RIGHT: Kai Bjerke (Hon. Mention All-District)
By : 
S. Lee Epps

Ethan Matzke and Alex Folz, for the second straight season, received two of the top three district football awards as five Spring Grove gridders were 2018 All-District selections with two others receiving Honorable Mention.

Folz repeats as Back of the Year and is All-District for a third season. Matzke is once again the sub-district Lineman of the Year while garnering a second All-District nod.

They were joined on the All-District Team by fellow seniors Noah Elton (2nd year)  and Takoda Boyd along with junior Kyle Hagen. Receiving Honorable Mention were seniors Calvin Sylling and Kai Bjerke.

Head coach Zach Hauser was the choice for Coach of the Year for a sixth time. Back-to-back state and district champion Spring Grove led with six First Team selections with four each for both Houston and Grand Meadow.

Folz, in the eight regular season games, led the eight-team sub-district in quarterback rating, rushing yardage (1,728), rushing touchdowns (28), scoring (216 points), kick scoring (46 points) and punting average (36.9). 

The 5-foot-10, 195-pound senior quarterback and safety ranked second in passing completions (100), passing touchdowns (21) and passing yardage (1,469). Folz tied for second with three defensive interceptions.

"Alex is a very smart football player," said head coach Zach Hauser. "He is like having another coach on the field.  

Matzke (6-3, 225) was a fearsome force at defensive end. On offense at tight end, the senior was a key blocker for the team that led the sub-district in total offense.

"Ethan has been a dominant force on defense the past couple years," said Hauser. "Ethan's blocking at tight end was a big reason we were successful running the ball this year."

Matzke was versatile enough to line up at tight end or wide receiver and rank third in the sub-district in receiving touchdowns (7) and seventh in reception yardage (325).

"His ability to block and catch passes made him the key to everything we did offensively," said offensive coordinator Kody Moore. 

Elton, a 5-11 (180) senior slot receiver and linebacker, had the sub-district's second most receptions (43, one short of the leader) and ranked third in receiving yardage (576 yards, eight games). 

With a single-season record 75 catches (13 games), Elton broke the school's career record in receptions (161), receiving yardage (2,198) and receiving touchdowns (27).

"Noah is so reliable in the passing game," said Hauser.  "He runs excellent routes and has some of the best hands I've ever seen."

On defense, Elton led the Lions in tackles for loss (13), picked off four passes and broke up three more.

Boyd (6-0, 160), like Matzke played both wide receiver and tight end for the prolific Lion offense. The senior had 44 and 24-yard touchdown receptions in the state semi-final. Boyd was the team's third leading tackler from his cornerback position.

"Takoda is the complete team player," said Hauser. “He will do anything that helps the team. Takoda is one of the best tackling cornerbacks I've ever coached."

Hagen (6-0, 170), at offensive guard, blocked while the Lions gained more than 450 yards per game.

 At linebacker, he led the Lions in tackles with 146 (11.2 per game) and sacks (5.5). He returned an interception for a touchdown, blocked three punts and recovered two fumbles.

"Kyle was a tackling machine at middle linebacker this year, noted Hauser.  "Kyle has worked hard in the weight room, and that showed on the football field.

Bjerke (6-0, 180) had a remarkable season, playing football for the first time in high school. The senior wide receiver caught 24 passes for 397 yards for 6 touchdowns and 3 two-point conversions.

At linebacker, Bjerke had 2 interceptions and broke up 5 other aerials. He was in on 6 tackles for loss.

"Kai’s speed allowed our vertical passing game to flourish," said Moore. "He was a weapon that defenses had a hard time dealing with. He had the catch of the year at the most critical moment to win the state quarterfinal game against RTR." 

Sylling (6-2, 215), at offense guard, blocked for the most productive offense in the sub-district. He was a versatile force on defense, playing both end and nose guard. He stepped up with amazing effectiveness as a two-way starter as a senior after playing only on defense as a reserve as a junior.

"This was Calvin's first year playing offensive line and did an amazing job for us," stated Hauser.  "Calvin showed toughness after spraining his ankle in the state quarterfinal game by toughing it out and playing through pain the last two games."


All-District Football - 9-man South 2018 - East Sub-district

Back of the Year - Alex Folz (SG), 2nd year

Lineman of the Year - Ethan Matzke (SG), 2nd year

Defensive Player of the Year - Joey Fishel (Houston)

Coach of the Year - Zach Hauser (SG) 6th year



Alex Folz, sr. QB/S, 3rd year

Ethan Matzke, sr. TE/DE, 2nd year (Hon. Mention 2016)

Noah Elton, sr. WR/LB, 2nd year

Takoda Boyd, Sr. WR/CB

Kyle Hagen, jr. OG/LB


James Hongerholt, sr. QB, 2nd yr.

Joey Fishel, sr. FB, 2nd year

Jaytin Millen, sr. RB

Kyle Twite, sr. OL


Nolan Skifter, jr. RB/LB

Wyatt Weiss, jr. C/DT

Ben Kraft, soph. TE/DE

Luke Speer, soph. RB/DB


Drew Wyffels, sr. QB/DB, 3rd year (Hon. Mention 2015)

Blake Henry, sr. OL/DL, 2nd year (Hon. Mention 1016 & 2015)

Gavin Johnson, soph. RB/LB


Andrew Wenstrom, sr. QB/DB, 3rd year (Hon. Mention 2015)

Mason Burlage, sr. OL/DL

Carsyn Gunderson, sr. WR/LB (Hon. Mention 2017)



Connor Ruen, sr. RB/CB

Joe Gathje, sr. TE/DE (Hon. Mention 2017)

Riley Cambern, sr. C/DT


Trey Hungerholt, sr. QB/DB 3rd yr.


Jed Nelson, soph. QB/S



SG: Kai Bjerke, sr. WR/LB & Calvin Sylling, sr. OL/DL

HOUSTON: Aaron Francis, sr. RB & Alec Francis jr. G

GM: Alec Hamilton, sr. RB/LB & Cameron Sneed, soph. OG/LB

M-C: Ryan Kuhn, sr. RB/DB & Ethan Underbakke, jr. WB/DB

Ran: Joey Erickson, sr. WR/DB & Isaac Stoesz, jr. WR/DL (both First Team 2017)

LANESBORO: Andrew Luck, sr. WR/CB & Caden Anderson, soph. WR/CB

L-O: Riley Olson, jr, TE, 2nd year & Tanner Kasel, jr. C 2nd year

L/P: Bryce Strouf, sr. TE/DB 3rd yr. & Zach Bollingberg, soph. RB/DB


East Sub-District

Spring Grove 7-0 (14-0) state champion

Houston 6-1 (9-2)

Grand Meadow 5-2 (7-3)

Randolph 4-3 (7-4)

Mabel-Canton 3-4 (5-5)

Lanesboro 2-5 (3-6)

LeRoy-Ostrander 1-6 (2-7)

Lyle/Pacelli 0-7 (0-9)