Spring Grove dominated the offensive statistics but escaped with only a one-point win, 13-12, against visiting Southland in an early-season sub-district showdown. On the scoreboard, the home opener at Blayne Onsgard Memorial field was decided by a Ben Udstuen extra-point kick, which gave the Lions their first lead, 7-6, with only 34 seconds remaining in the third quarter. It was a critical matchup between two title contenders. Southland (1-1, 1-1 East) was coming off a two-touchdown win over Lanesboro. Spring Grove improved to 2-0 (1-0 East). A 38-yard Bryce Berns pass to Braedon Solie down to the Rebel two yard-line had set up a two-yard touchdown run by Jacob Olerud before Udstuen’s kick. The Lions trailed again 12-7 before Solie reeled in another perfectly-placed long pass for 41 yards to set up a three-yard Olerud TD plunge to create the final score with 7:04 to play. The longest gain was a 43-yard pass to a leaping Jaxon Strinmoen, but that was the final play of the first half. SG went into intermission trailing 6-0 despite having outgained the visitors, 232 to 56. The Lions eventually outgained Southland, 399 to 118. Berns accounted for 303 yards of offense, rushing for 92 and passing for 211 while completing 14 of 22 tosses to five different receivers, including Strinmoen (5-87 yards), Solie (2-79) and Ethan Crouch (3-27). Olerud (3-13 receiving) rushed for 76 yards and both touchdowns. Despite the Lions’ yardage advantage, it was a hard-fought clash, due to Rebel punting and Spring Grove losing three fumbles. The first bobble cost the Lions an early lead. The other two fumbles set up both Rebel touchdowns. First, the Lions had an amazing 88-yard drive end with a fumble at the Rebel 7 yard-line. Later, Southland sophomore Royce Jax stripped the ball from Berns and raced untouched 72 yards to break a scoreless tie just 44 seconds before halftime. A fourth-quarter fumble at the Lion 35 set up the lone Southland offensive score – a 29-yard TD pass from Noah Bauer to a wide-open Riley Jax to put the visitors back ahead, 12-7. That was the only Rebel play that gained more than 20 yards. But Southland won the field position battle with Jack Bruggeman averaging 42.3 yards per punt. SG defenders twice held on fourth down in the fourth quarter and limited Southland to a paltry 31 yards rushing. However, the Lions were vulnerable to the pass (8-87 yards) but were helped by Rebel receivers not reeling in a few catchable tosses. Spring Grove compensated with two interceptions. Strinmoen, who had a team-high eight tackles, also stopped an early Rebel threat with a diving interception of a short pass at the Lion 5 yard-line. That 35-yard drive was the lone Rebel possession with more than one first down. SG freshman Caden Gerard, who broke up a two-point conversion pass in the end zone, also had a diving interception of a long pass, three plays before the first SG touchdown.
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