The Spring Grove defense limited Mountain Lake Area to only eight first downs in a 28-7 season-opening, Lion road win. Junior Bryce Berns, in his varsity quarterback debut, passed for 187 yards (1 TD) and rushed for 114 (2 TD, 1 PAT). Jacob Olerud, in his varsity running back debut, rushed for 94 yards (1 TD) and defended with a team-best 10 tackles. The Lion linemen dominated the contest. The lone MLA score came on kickoff return.
It was surely the longest regular-season road trip in Spring Grove football history and a beautiful evening at Munson Field, the first meeting since the Lions drubbed the Wolverines, 40-18, in the 2018 state championship game between two 12-0 teams. Now, with only two seniors, the Wolverines are mostly a junior squad, but are considered one of the better teams in their area, coming off an 8-3 season that ended in the Section 3 championship game. Both teams opened 2023 with similar spread offensive sets, featuring one primary running back.
SG scored once in each quarter, starting with a Jaxon Strinmoen interception at the Wolverine 30 yard-line. The last three TDs came on 81, 70 and 84-yard possessions with offensive line play from Brandon Jahnke, Josh Newgaard, Shawn Crouch and Ethan Crouch. The game ended with Spring Grove taking a knee at the Wolverine nine.
Down only 6-0, MLA drove 62 yards, mostly with passes, before Shawn Crouch forced a fumble, recovered by freshman Caden Gerard at the Lion 11. Ahead 14-0 at halftime, SG scored on the first second-half possession (SG 21, MLA 0) only to see Layne Wall take the kickoff 82 yards a TD. Down 21-7, the Wolverines on the next play sacked Berns and recovered his fumble at the Lion 27. The Lions took the ball back on downs at the 14. MLA converted only one of 10 third downs and came up scoreless on all three red zone possessions.
Drawing the starting nod after the season-ending injury to all-state quarterback Elijah Solum, Berns completed 14 of 23 passes (61%) to five different receivers. The big play was a third-down, 40-yard pass to Strinmoen that led to a 21-0 lead early in the second half. Strinmoen (5-66 yards receiving) had already scored the second TD with a nine-yard catch. Zach Brumm caught three tosses for 49 yards total, two of which went for 21 yards on scoring drives. Braeden Solie gained 47 yards with four receptions. Olerud and Ethan Crouch had one reception each on offense and one sack each on defense.
Berns averaged 5.7 yards per carry and scored on one and 3-yard runs; Olerud ran in from the 7. Ben Udstuen was 2 for 3 with point-after placekicks. The Lions outgained the home team, 406 yards to 155. The win sets up an early-season sub-district showdown with Southland after the Rebels opened with a 21-6 win over Lanesboro. In the only other week zero game, Houston defeated Alden-Conger/Glenville-Emmons, 36-34, in overtime.
Team total (rush+pass):” SG 406 (219+187), MLA 155 (38+117)
RUSHING: att.-yards (avg.): SG 42-219, 3 TD, PAT (5.2), MLA 19-38 (2.0)
PASSES: comp-att-int, yds. (TD): SG 14-23-0, 187, TD,. MLA 12-27-1, 117
Sacks allowed: SG 1, MLA 2
TD: SG 3 rush, 1 pass; MLA 1 KO return
PAT: SG 3-4 (kick 2-3, rush 1-1); MLA 1-1 (kick 1-1)
TOTAL PLAYS: SG 65, MLA 46
AVG. yards per play:SG 6.2, MLA 3.4
FUMBLES – LOST: SG 3-1, MLA 1-1
TURNOVERS: SG 1, MLA 2
PENALTIES: SG 6-25, MLA 3-20
3rd downs: SG 6 for 9, MLA 1 for 10
4th downs: SG 0 or 0, MLA 2 for 5
Red zone: SG 4 for 4, MLA 0 for 3
First downs: SG 25, MLA 8
Plays of 20+ yards: SG 4, MLA 2
RUSHING 42-219: Bryce Berns 20-114, 2 TD, PAT; Jacob Olerud 20-94, TD; Braedon Solie 1-12; team knee 1-(-1)
PASSING: Bryce Berns 14-23-0, 187, TD
RECEIVING: 14-187, TD: Jaxon Strinmoen 5-66, TD; Zach Brumm 3-49; Braedon Solie 4-47; Jacob Olerud 1-15; Ethan Crouch 1-10
SCORING: 28: Bryce Berns 14, Jacob Olerud 6, Jaxon Strinmoen 6, Ben Udstuen 2
XP KICKING: Ben Udstuen 2-3
PUNTING: Ben Udstuen 3-84 (37.0 avg.)
INTERCEPTIONS: Jaxon Strinmoen 1 – no return
PASS BREAKUPS 2: Sylas Flatin 1, Brandon Jahnke 1
FUMBLE RECOVERIES: Caden Gerard 1
FUMBLES FORCED: Shawn Crouch 1
SACKS: Ethan Crouch 1, Jacob Olerud 1
TACKLES for LOSS (incl. sacks): Jacob Olerud 2.0, Ethan Crouch 1.5, Noah Heppner 0.5
TACKLES (solo+assists): Jacob Olerud 10 (6+4), Jaxon Strinmoen 6 (4+2), Ethan Crouch 5 (4+1), Bryce Berns 4 (4+0), Zach Brumm 4 (4+0), Sylas Flatin 4 (1+3), Noah Heppner 3 (3+0)=, Caden Gerard 3 (2+1), Dash Ranzenberger 2 (1+1), Shawn Crouch 2 (1+1), Ben Udstuen 1 (1+0), Braedon Solie 1 (0+1), Brandon Jahnke 1 (0+1)
KICKOFF RETURNS: Braedon Solie 2-58
PUNT RETURNS: none