LeRoy-Ostrander turned a 6-6 halftime stalemate into a decisive 30-6 runaway win in the 9-man Section One football final at Dodge Center. With the No. 3 section seed, the Cardinals (9-2) were in the section title game for the first time in 17 seasons against the defending section champ. With the No. 1 section seed, the state-ranked No. 2 Burros (10-1) did sustain an impressive 15-play, 71-yard touchdown drive, but the Cardinal defense denied them any of their usual breakaway gallops. There were only four plays all night that covered more than 13 yards, all involving L-O senior quarterback Chase Johnson, last year’s Sub-District Player of the Year. The first three of those four long-yardage plays decided the outcome. On an extremely windy night, each team completed two of only nine passes. But the first completion was Johnson throwing long for 38 yards to Layne Bird for a 6-0 lead. Lanesboro answered with its lone long TD drive with quarterback Seth Semmen carrying the
final 10 yards to paydirt. The Burro defense then prevailed twice in its end of the field, and it was still tied at halftime, 6-6. A promising, third-quarter Lanesboro drive ended on downs at the L-O 28. Two plays later, the Cardinals seized the lead. Johnson, who had 19 carries and finished with 250 of his team’s 281 rushing yards, was bottled up until late in the third. From the 4:05 mark on, he was electric, bolting for 73, 53 and 38-yard touchdown runs. In the process, he topped 2,000 yards rushing for the season. Tanner Olson capped the scoring with a 13-yard TD carry, as L-O scored on its last four possessions in the 30-6 win. The Cards outgained L.H.S. overall 322 yards to 176. Lanesboro was limited to 158 rushing yards. They came in averaging 420 yards on the ground and had topped 300 every contest. The Burros had no gain more than 11 yards, as L-O’s interior defense (DE Hayden Sass, DE Gavin Sweeney, DT Olson, MLB Morgan Jasper, MLB Memphiz Gomez) did what no other team had done this year. Olson, Sweeney, and Sass were credited with team-bests 18, 14, and 14 total tackles respectively. The six points scored by the Burros was also a season-low. They came in averaging 49 PPG. The 30 points allowed by the Burros was the most this season. For Lanesboro, J.T. Rein rushed 23 times for 88 yards. It was only his second game under 100 yards for a 1,900-yard rusher. It was the first game he was held out of the end zone. Semmen had 12 carries for 37 yards and a TD before leaving late with an injury. The defending section champs had a fantastic season, but this one will hurt. They end at 10-1 as 9-Man Section 1 runner-up, graduating 13 seniors who helped produce a great two-year run; Rein, Semmen, Clay Schwichtenberg, Carter Clarke, Reece Benson, Jordan Peterson, Jacob Peterson, Trevor Ruen, Adam Ruen, Bodey Wright, and Gage Highum. The Cardinals have now avenged both of their regular-season setbacks. They own three wins over teams ranked top 10; #2 Lanesboro, #7 Grand Meadow, and #8 Mountain Lake Area. For the third straight year, the 9-man regular-season champion has not won a postseason title. Over the last three years, L-O, GM, and Lanesboro have each won a regular-season crown and a playoff championship. None accomplished both titles in the same season. In the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2004, LeRoy-Ostrander (9-2) heads to St. Paul to face Section 4 champ #10 Wheaton/Herman-Norcross (9-2), which eliminated #1 Verndale. Only three of the eight teams to make state in 9-Man ended the year ranked. “Big Red” is a feel good underdog story, as their roster is just 19 guys. Short of the Cardinals recent good runs in football, tremendous seasons down L-O way in any sport have come infrequently.
Sam and Gophers Slam Goodhue, Head to State
Chatfield football was a powerful force in the 2010’s. Jeff Johnson’s Gophers made four section title games and won the 2013 State Class AA title. One could argue they were one of the best Class AA programs in the state. But it is hard to know just where they stood, as they played in the same section alongside Caledonia. The three times they lost section title games was to the Warriors, who went on to win the state title each time. Had Johnson’s boys played in any other section, who knows what could’ve been accomplished. So, it was fortuitous this season. The Warriors finally had a down year and Chatfield has an elite player amidst another very strong group of kids. The Gophers rose to the top of their sub-district (champions) and also Section 1AA. A culmination of that rise was the 2021 1AA final between the #6 in AA Gophers (1-seed, 9-1) and Goodhue (2-seed, 7-3). Chatfield handled the Wildcats in the regular season easily, 40-15. Early on in the title game, the Wildcats drew first shock. After stopping the Gophers’ initial possession, Sam Opsahl hit Dylan Schafer on a 75-yard TD pass. Goodhue took a quick 7-0 lead. Maybe things were different than the regular season? Or maybe, definitely, not. It was the Wildcats only lead. An onslaught with the #21 written all over it occurred the rest of the first half. Gopher running back Sam Backer is one of the state’s best. He and his offensive line, Isaac
Stevens, Ethan Ruskell, Caden Nolte, Michael Greiner, and Mason Clemens torche Wildcats rush defense. Helmets were put to helmets. Edges were set. There was a good push. And Backer, who can exploit the smallest of windows with home run consequence, did so often. After trailing 7-0, the Gophers scored on their next five possessions. The 5’10” 180-pounder Backer, a track and field 100-meter and 200-meter state placer, surveyed, cut, sliced, slipped tackles, and zipped his way to TD runs of 45, 18, 7, 2, and 91 in the stanza. The latter was the nail in the coffin. After getting backed up inside the 10, Chatfield’s #21 went right, cut back left (probably wrongfully and near more defenders), but slipped through a hole anyway. Using his 11.18-second, 100-meter speed, he out-race everyone 91 yards to paydirt. In between, Chatfield’s defense yielded nothing. Goodhue went three-and-out four times. When the dust settled after just one half, Backer had 18 carries for 295 yards and 5 TDs and Chatfield led 38-7. Number 21 played just enough in the second half to score a sixth time and set the Gophers all-time single-game rushing record (20-342 yards, 6 TDs rushing). He went over 2,000 yards for the season. Chatfield won the section title easily, 46-15. Kailan Schott (5-30 rushing) and Jackson Schild (10-28 rushing) also aided in a Gopher rushing effort that tallied 452 yards. The Gophers didn’t (need to) complete a pass. Goodhue was led by Opsahl (8-19, 114 yards, 2 TDs), Schafer (77-yard TD reception) and Adam Poncelet (2-43, TD receiving). Malakye Parker (15-50 rushing), a 1,000-yard rusher, led the ground attack. Chatfield (10-1) has won ten straight after a season-opening loss to #9 in AAA PEM. The Bulldogs won the Section 1AAA title over #3 Cannon Falls 21-18. Chatfield’s next test will be a stiff one, as they take on #2 in AA Minneapolis-North (9-1). They are the highest ranked team left in Class AA, as #1 Blooming Prairie fell (10-1) to Maple River in the 2AA title game.
One Score Game Sends Trojans to State
They are rivals. They are the closest teams to one another in the Mid-Southeast-Blue sub-district. There is history between Fillmore Central (2-seed, 9-1) and Rushford-Peterson (#3 in A, 1-seed, 10-0). The most recent big football memory was the 21-20 Trojan win in the 2016 Class 1A section final. The teams re-matched in the 1A section final, but instead of it being a one-point game, it was one-score game; one score period. The contest was probably most appealing to Ray Guy, the only punter enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame. It featured 14 total punts, seven by each squad. The winning team posted just one second half first down. Points were at a premium. R-P was more successful in the first half moving the ball. They thrice made FC’s end of the field and had seven first downs to FC’s two. Their best drive covered 80 yards and took eight plays. Junior Grady Hengel, who was on last year’s LARP state cross country team, authored a key 25-yard run, and the keyset play of the game, a 26-yard TD reception from Malachi Bunke on a corner route. Via that score, R-P led 7-0 with 4:45 left in the second quarter. FC’s best chance at points came late in the first quarter. After a 25-yard Dillon O’Connor to Bryce Corson completion to the Trojan 32, Corson was open on a drag route, and he had plenty of room to run. Minimum, it would’ve been a double-digit-yard play, maximum, who knows (a TD maybe), but the pass was way high. Said drive ended at the Trojan 23 when Andrew Wilkemeyer upended Corson on a 4th and 1 run. At half, R-P led 7-0. Mr. Guy then would’ve sat and worshipped after intermission. Each of the first eight possessions ended in punts. FC seemingly had some momentum as the 4th quarter clock ticked down. Garrett Gossman and Gunner Benson each sacked Bunke on an R-P series, leaving the Trojans to punt from their own three-yard-line. But Justin Ruberg uncorked the best punt of the game, a 57-yard boot that put the Falcons back at their 40. They then marched, looking for a late dramatic game-winning drive. FC converted a 4th and 1 and a 3rd and 1. They had 1st and 10 at the R-P 26. There was then contact on a pass downfield, but no interference. Two plays late, O’Connor was late on a pass across the middle. Hengel jumped the route and authored the second most important play of the game, an interception. The Trojans took over with under 2:00 left. On 3rd and 3 from the 37, Bunke kept it on a QB keeper and secured the game-clinching, section title clinching first down with a 6-yard run. It was R-P’s only first down of the second half, as they were held to 22 total yards in the stanza. By a 7-0 final, the Trojans stayed perfect (11-0) and grabbed the 1A title. Bunke (6-12, 73 yards, TD passing) and Hengel (5-28 rushing, 26-yard TD catch) authored the only score. Hadyn Kahoun (13-33 rushing) led R-P’s ground game. Alex Ronnenberg (2-37 receiving) was the top receiver. The Trojans had 75 yards rushing and 73 yards passing for 148 total yards. FC junior quarterback O’Connor (13-26, 120 yards, INT passing) started his first game since a week four injury. Alec Sikkink (10-37 rushing) led FC’s ground game. Jayce Kiehne (6-59 receiving) and Corson (6-51 receiving) were busy catching passes. The Falcons had 23 yards rushing and 120 yards passing for 143 total yards. Gossman (9 tackles, sack) and Benson (9 tackles, two sacks) led the FC defense. Carson Thompson had seven tackles and two TFLs to lead R-P’s interior defense. The Falcons excellent season ends at 9-2. Both losses were to the Trojans. They fell 26-15 in week two. Chris Mensink’s group is a young team with just five seniors: Sikkink, Haven O’Connor, Jason Hsu, Hunter Suckow, and Carson Berg. Only Sikkink and O’Connor are starters. Davin Thompson’s Trojans (11-0) move on to the state quarters. They’ll face Section 4 champ Belgrade-Brotten-Elrosa (9-3) at Crown College.
Rislov, Hubka Stand Out at State C-C
From 2010-2019, there were only three top 20 finishes by a Journal 11 male runner at a state cross country meet; Kingsland’s Richard Swanson (11th 2012), LARP’s Luke O’Hare (17th 2019), and Chatfield’s Christian Bance (17th 2014). The 2021 state meet nearly equaled that in one fail swoop. LARPH senior Tyler Rislov and Kingsland junior Garrison Hubka did really impressive work in Northfield. Rislov put a great cap on a six-year varsity career by finishing highest of any ‘county’ guy since prior to 2010. He took sixth place overall in a time of 16:38.42. Only Perham’s Jakob McCleary (16:09.64), the state champion, Nova Academy’s Henry Karelitz (16:25.02), Sauk Centre’s Brandon Kampsen (16:25.93), Cromwell-Wright/Floodwood’s Noah Foster (16:26.03), and West Central Area’s Kade Runge (16:33.67) were faster. Rislov had a season-best time by milliseconds over his effort at the PEM Invite (16:39). He was almost 19-seconds faster than at the 1A Meet (16:57). Rislov ran 17:35.6 as a sophomore (112th place) at his only other competed state meet (there wasn’t one last year). With his high school C-C career now completed, Rislov arguably became the
top male Journal-covered C-C runner since 2010 (over former teammate Luke O’Hare). Kingsland’s Garrison Hubka moved up that “unofficial” list too. The junior ran a season-best time (16:55.32). It was his only sub-seventeen-minute 5,000-meters this season. Hubka took 13th overall, the third highest of any “county” runner since 2010. He finished top five in 11 of 12 races this year, the lone exception; state. Hubka was also a state qualifier last year (no state meet). From there, LARPH senior Andrew Hoiness didn’t run his best time (17:18.56), but he did well enough to finish a more than respectable 32nd (of 160 runners). Like Rislov, he graduates a three-time state competitor. The Rislov/Hoiness duo compiled eight simultaneous top five finishes this year, including at sections. Chatfield senior Logan Thompson took 69th (17:44.93). His was an interesting year. The first race, he took 28th at the Stewartville Meet running 19:13.2. But he ran a season-best at sections (17:24.4) and a season second-best (17:44.94) at state. Thompson was the Gophers first state C-C qualifier since Bance (2014). Kingsland’s Cole Kruegel took 74th (17:46.93). Kreugel finished top 10 nine times this season. He finished top 10 with Hubka nine times. LARPH as a team (230) took 13th (of 16 squads), actually placing one behind fellow 1A foe Rochester-Lourdes (229). But 8th place St. Cloud Cathedral had 217 points, as there was log-jam between 8th and 15th places. Nova Classical Academy (122) took first over Perham (128) to win the state title. LARPH’s other competing runners, Ryan Prinsen (101st > 18:04.37), Tyler Betthauser (102nd > 18:04.59), Sam Adamcyzk (137th > 18:58.85), Matthew Sprague (150th > 19:59.21), and Cadel Carter (151st > 19:59.48), were lower in the field. On the girls side, LFC’s Lillyan Kiehne and Chatfield’s Lexi Kivimagi competed. Kiehne finished a stand-out 8th grader year by taking 56th (20:42.59) of 159 total runners. She was the tenth highest finisher in her grade. Kiehne had five sub-twenty-one-minute races all in the final six events of the year. LFC’s top female runner had a string of eight straight top five finishes this season. Gopher Lexi Kivimagi, just a seventh grader, ran in only four varsity races this year. She finished top six in the final three ‘area’ races. At state, Kivimagi finished 65th (20:53.45). Three of those finishes were under twenty-one minutes. The only 7th grader to top Kivimagi at state was Lake City’s Olivia Yotter, who took 29th (21:11.60). Only nine total 7th graders competed. Murray County Central junior Amanda Overgaauw was individual champion (18:09.13) over Luverne’s Tenley Nelson (18:47). Staples-Motley had three in the top 13 to take the girls team title (103) over Perham (109). Both the boys and girls 5,000-meter races were held at St. Olaf College in Northfield.
Cougars Fall in Five Sets in Section Semifinals
The last two times there were section volleyball play-offs, Mabel-Canton fell both times agonizingly close to state. In 2018 and 2019 they were downed by Medford in four sets and five sets respectively in 1A title matches. The beginning of this year marked the transition from three to four classes in volleyball. Theoretically, it made it easier to go to state. Easier doesn’t equate to easy. In the 2021 section semifinals, #7 Mabel-Canton (2-seed, 30-4) faced #8 Kenyon-Wanamingo (3-seed, 18-4), a strong program that’s been a perennial 1A power. The good news for the Cougars; when they won, they did so decisively. The bad news; when they lost, it was in highly competitive games where the Knights took their game a little higher. The Cougars came out in game one and fell behind 6-3 early but then ripped to a 25-14 win. M-C then was out quick in game two, leading 13-7. But the Knights settled in. They have big hitters and their defense seemed to get better as the match went along. Slowly in game two, K-W reeled M-C in. They finally tied the game at 21-21 and would be at match point leading 24-22. The Cougars fought off that match point, and two more (24-23, 25-24). In the end, K-W got a Stella Rechtzigel kill and Josi Quam setter-attack-kill to complete the comeback, taking a highly competitive game 27-25. M-C then pulled a redo of game one (save falling behind). They jumped out 7-2 and led the duration 25-14. But K-W rallied in game four. Paced by the defense of libero Rachel Ryan, who had 16 digs in the set, the Knights started 8-2 and led 20-11. M-C made a run late, going on a six-point spurt. Five came in a Saijal Slafter serving session. The Cougars got to even at 23-23, but the Knights used an M-C error and a Leah Berg kill to grab the last two points. They forced a game five with a 25-23 win. The last set was tied at 6-6 when K-W ran off three straight points to lead 9-6. M-C got as close as 9-8, but K-W scored six of the final nine points. Another Berg kill finished things off, as K-W moved on to the section final with a comeback 3-2 win (14-25, 27-25, 14-25, 25-23, 15-11). M-C was led offensively by young middle hitters, 8th grader Kinley Soiney (22 kills) and freshman Slafter (18 kills). Freshman setter Sahara Morken put up 61 assists and 18 digs. Sister Sophie Morken had 9 kills, 23 digs, and went 25-26 serving. Senior OH’s Molly Lee (7 kills, team-best 34 digs) and Emily Carolan (7 kills, 19 digs, 21-21 serving) strongly finished off their tenures as key parts to the M-C volleyball machine. Libero McKenzie Kelly had a team-second-best 28 digs. Kenyon-Wanamingo turned in both a more powerful offensive effort and a fantastic defensive effort. Two Knights finished with 15-plus kills, Tessa Erlandson (19 kills, 22 digs) and Berg (15 kills). Quam (6 kills, 32 assists, 13 digs) did a bit of everything. Ryan (28 digs, 7 assists) and Julia Dahl (20 digs, 21-21 serving) joined Erlandson in authoring 20-plus digs. Stella Rechtzigel (7 kills on.375 hitting, 16-16 serving, 3 aces) and Norah Rechtzigel (6 kills) gave the Knights five hitters with at least six kills. Carmen Nerison (15 assists, 12 digs, 3 aces) had a couple key serving runs. K-W had 56 kills with 27 errors on 210 attempts (.138%). They went 88 of 94 serving with 10 aces. M-C had 64 kills with 11 errors on 203 attempts (.261%). They went 100-110 serving with 3 aces. The Knights had 98 digs, M-C 130. The Cougs, on the back of its two big set wins, actually out-scored K-W to 109 to 95. Another great season for M-C ends, as they finish with a 30-5 record. Lee, Carolan, Gwen Tollefsrud, Emma Tollefsrud, and Brianna Wallin are the five seniors. Faribault B.A. handled Spring Grove in the first 1A semifinal 3-0. The Cardinals then swept K-W (25-16, 26-24, 25-21) to claim the 1A title.
Warriors Battle Uphill Versus Cougars
Caledonia volleyball (3-seed, 22-8) came into its Section 1AA semifinal battle with Zumbrota-Mazeppa (2-seed, 22-6) ranked higher in state (#8 in AA versus unranked), but seeded lower. Something had to give amidst a highly competitive 1AA tourney, now devoid of typical powerhouses Stewartville and Kasson-Mantorville (each moved up to AAA). The Warriors battled uphill versus Z-M. In set one, they trailed 19-11 at one point. Caledonia kept fighting and got as close as 21-18 but fell 25-19. Game two again had the Cougars leading, at one point 22-18. But the Warriors then battled to a tie at 22-22. The teams tied again at 23-23 before Caledonia took the game 25-23 courtesy of a Z-M hitting error. The match was evened at 1-1. The Cougars were again ahead in game three, leading 16-9 at one point. This time the Warriors couldn’t push and they fell 25-14. Game four saw Caledonia battle back from a 18-14 deficit. They were within one, 20-19. But down the stretch Z-M was again too much. They ended on a 5-0 run to take the set 25-19, the match 3-1 (25-19, 23-25, 25-14, 25-19). Logan Koepke (14 kills, 26 digs, 11-12 serving, 4 aces) notched another double-double to lead the Warriors. Grace Myhre (10 kills) also got to double-digit kills. Brianna Stemper (6 kills) and Sadie Treptow (6 kills, 4 total blocks) helped offensively. Jovial King (22 assists, 8 digs) and Emma Rommes (14 assists) orchestrated the Cal offense. Emme Kittleson (20 digs) and Alexis Schroeder (18 digs) helped on the back-line, giving Cal three girls with 18 or more digs. Rylee Nelson (17 kills, 22 assists, 29 digs, 3 aces) had a triple-double to lead Z-M. The TRC champion Warriors finish another successful season at 22-9. Caledonia’s seniors are Treptow, Myhre, Stemper, Alysha Heaney, Lillian Doyle, and Makayla Tessmer. Cannon Falls swept Z-M 3-0 (25-23, 25-9, 25-13) to win the 1AA title.
Out of System Lions Fall to B.A. in Semis
Any time a team makes the section semifinals, they have high hopes to move on and play for state. Spring Grove volleyball (4-seed, 20-9) was in said spot versus #9 in A Faribault B.A. (1-seed, 18-11). The Cardinals had beat 9-seed Rushford-Peterson in the quarters, 3-1, giving SG big aspirations. But B.A. consistently got the Lions out of system and it was a tough go of it for Kelsey Morken’s girls. The teams were tied at 12-12 in the first set before B.A went on a 6-0 run to lead 18-12. The closest SG got from there was 24-21 and they fell 25-21. In games two and three, the Cardinals controlled things. An 11-point serving run early in game two turned a 4-3 Lion lead into a 15-4 deficit. A couple early runs in game three had the Lions down 11-4. They couldn’t recover in each and fell by sweep (21-25, 15-25, 19-25). B.A. served strong and hit at Lion setter Rachel Normann, which hindered SG’s offense. The Lions first real pound-it-down kill was by Addyson McHugh and it came to make the score 19-8 B.A. in the second set. McHugh (4 kills, 7 digs) and Kenadee Gerard (7 kills), SG’s top two hitters who combined for 36 kills against FC in the quarters, had just 11 kills. Maggie Lile (3 kills, 20 digs) was busy defensively, as was Julia Halverson (15 digs). Normann (15 assists, 12 digs) had an assist-dig double-double. Lydia Solum added four kills. SG hit at 8% while B.A hit at 15%. SG had two aces and five errors serving, B.A. 10 aces and eight errors serving. Six different Cardinals had at least one ace. Lindsay Hanson (17 kills) led the way offensively for B.A., including putting down seven pounds in the second set. Kate Trump (10 kills, 22 digs) had a double-double. Reagan Kangas (38 assists,) and Mia Potter (28 digs) set and defended for B.A. SG’s finishes another good season with a 20-10 record. Normann, Halverson, Brielle Neeley, McKenzie Fisch, and Danika Holty are the Lions five seniors. B.A. went on to beat Kenyon-Wanamingo 3-0 (25-16, 26-24, 25-21) for the 1A title.
*The Fillmore County Journal Sports page is a written collaboration of Paul Trende and Lee Epps.