The top 50 teams of the Fall from 2010-2019 continues. As before, squads from the “Journal 10”, FC, R-P, Chatfield, Kingsland, M-C, Houston, Lanesboro, GM, SG, and L-O, are eligible. Ranking across different years, and involving teams from three different sports, is difficult, and thus subject to debate. Ranking is by how far teams made it in the playoffs. Placing equivalent teams is done mostly via winning percentage (but also how far their section final vanquisher progressed at state, competitiveness of games, and subjective opinion). To expedite the process (for the start of winter sports), teams will be looked at in groups of eight versus five. From #14 down to #7 things get really good. It is all “state caliber” teams. Sixteen total teams from the “Journal 10” made state from 2010-2019; three cross country, 12 football, and one volleyball. Many of these teams are stuff of legend.
#14) LFC Girls Cross Country 2016
It was the year that surely made LFC girls cross country a mid-decade running dynasty. The Burros had been good in 2014, taking third at the Section 1A meet (just missing state). They were better in 2015 (countdown team #13), earning their first state berth. But in 2016, Ellen Cullen’s girls made Northfield a second time. The regular season was great. The Burros took first at invites in Eyota, St. Charles, Chatfield, Lewiston, and Plainview. The prestigious St. Olaf Showcase in Northfield was the only regular season race they didn’t win. Their best day was probably repeat winning the TRC Meet. Senior Kiera Olson, senior Leah Ruen, junior Bailey Ruen, sophomore Emily Snyder, and 8th grader Kaylee Arndt went 1, 2, 3, 5, and 7. Sophomore Maddie Smith and junior Ashley Miner each also finished in the top 20 (15th and 17th). Seven LFC girls made All-TRC. It was the second race where five or more Lady Burros finished top 10. Six did so at the D-E Invite. On three other occasions, four Burros finished in the top 10. Seven runners routinely were in the top 25. Olson, L-Ruen, and Arndt each had six top 10 finishes, Snyder four, and B-Ruen three. LFC, the defending champ and ranked #3 in state, was probably the favorites for the Section 1A title. But they eked out second place, beating Stewartville on the strength of seventh runner B-Ruen’s finish (plus top Tiger runner Abby Orvis went down late in the race). Nonetheless, they made state again. LFC then took 11th in Northfield, dropping down a couple sports from their 9th place 2015 finish. Senior Kiera Olson, running at state for a third time, posted her highest and LFC’s highest finish (31st overall). With Olson and L-Ruen graduating, Snyder getting injured, and Smith no longer running, the Burros fell off in 2017, taking 11th at sections. Arndt went to state individually in 2017. Injuries then caught up to her too. After a great three-year run, LFC’s preeminence ended. They haven’t had a female state cross country qualifier since (though Ruen brother Carson went in 2020). But in last spring’s All-Decade Cross Country Top 18, six of LFC’s big seven, Olson (#4), Arndt (#9), Snyder (#10), L-Ruen (#11), B-Ruen (#15) and Smith (#17), all made the list.
#13) LFC Girls Cross Country 2015
It was the most acclaimed “Journal 10” cross country team of the decade. LFC girls C-C entered the 2015 season having emerged in 2014. Ellen Cullen’s squad took third at the Section 1A meet that year. All of its five scoring runners returned for the first of two encores in 2015 (and then 2016). The Burros made big noise to start the season, taking on the 21-team Stewartville Invite and winning it (with six girls in the top 25). For their next meet, they took on the 21-team large and small school Decorah Invite and took third (behind La Crosse Central and Dubuque Hempstead). LFC dominated section 1A, winning six more in-season invites, at Eyota, Pine Island, St. Charles, Chatfield, Lewiston, and Plainview. In their first year running at the TRC Invite, they claimed that title too. Freshman Emily Snyder, junior Kiera Olson, sophomore Bailey Ruen, junior Leah Ruen, and frosh Maddie Smith finished 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 with sophomore Ashley Miner taking 15th. Each made All-TRC. For the year, Olson had eight, L-Ruen and Snyder seven, top 10 finishes. B-Ruen and Smith each had four. Olson posted LFC’s sole meet individual title in St. Charles. The Burros then won the school’s first ever Section 1A crown, garnering a berth at state in the process. Snyder led the way with a fourth place finish, though three other Burros finished top 25. At state LFC placed a more than respectable ninth of 16 teams. It was a campaign where the girls won 9 of 11 races competed. A year later, LFC again made state, albeit by the skin of its teeth (countdown team #14). But then things dropped off. An argument can be made that the 2016 squad was just as good, with a little more depth. Key members of the 2015 squad, Olson (#4), Snyder (#10), L-Ruen (#11), B- Ruen (#15) and Smith (#17) all made last spring’s All-Decade Cross Country Top 18. Joining LARP boys cross country of 2019 and LFC girls circa 2016, these are the only three “Journal 10” running teams to make state in the 2010s.
#12) Spring Grove Football 2011
Outscoring the opponents by an average score of 43-7, it was a record-smashing, section championship season for Spring Grove. But one painful, lingering memory was the controversial, one-point loss in the state quarters. It was the Lions’ second trip to state and first back-to-back conference championship in 51 years. The boys broke program records with a #5 state ranking, 42.8 PPG scoring average, and 35.3 PPG average margin of victory. The defensive scoring average (7.5 PPG) was the best in 36 years (7.5 in 1975) and has not come close to being equaled since. With three players rushing for more than 1,000 yards, the team set school records with 4,670 rushing and 5,091 total yards. After an opening 26-18 win over Houston, unranked SG went on a rampage, shutting out state-ranked #4 Lanesboro, 28-0, and then outscoring the next three opponents, 164 to 12. They then snapped an eight-game losing streak against Grand Meadow, 41-12. There were also rematch routs of Houston (46-0), Lanesboro (62-6, section semi-final) and GM (28-0, section final). SG scored at least 41 points from week three through the playoff semis. The defense pitched four shut-outs and held four other foes to single digits. Ranked #5, Zach Hauser’s Lions (11-0) went to state versus #8 Wheaton/Herman-Norcross (10-1). In the computer poll, W/H-N was #1, SG #2. The Lions scored on the game’s first possession but fell behind for the first time all season, 8-7, in the second quarter. That would be the final score. Eli Gleason sacked the Warrior quarterback on the goal line, but a controversial call went against the Lions who thought they had a game-winning safety. Starting the year 11-0, SG finished 11-1. Two Lion seniors were 1st Team All-State, Gleason, who was also SEC “Lineman of the Year,” and Aric Elton, who repeated as SEC “Defensive Player of the Year.” Elton (1,034 yards, 21 TDs rushing, 22 total TDs, 126 tackles), a three-time Lion MVP, senior Sam Ellingson (1,657 yards, 18 TDs rushing, 20 total TDs) and junior Josh Olerud (1,060 yards, 16 TDs rushing, 18 total TDs, 135 tackles) each rushed for more than 1,000 yards. They were joined on the All-SEC team by Gleason (team-best 165 tackles, 13 sacks – still an SG single-season record) and leading receiver senior Jake Kraus. The 2011 season was the first of eight straight 9-Man Section 1 title games for the Lions. SG made state twice more in the decade (top six teams in this countdown).
#11) Lanesboro Football 2010
The Burros, circa 2010, get credit for having the most impromptu state title game run of any team on this list. Lanesboro made state in 2005 and 2006, the section title game in 2008, so they had a history of success under Coach James Semmen. But the Burros had gone 5-4 in 2009, losing in the Section quarters. And the 2010 season didn’t start too hot. Lanesboro fell to Mabel-Canton 20-18 and Spring Grove 27-6, starting the season 0-2. They won their next six regular season games including avenging the loss to the Cougars in the season finale, 24-6. The win earned Lanesboro (6-1, 6-2) a tri-share of the SEC title with GM (6-1, 7-1) and SG (6-1, 7-1). Most of the Burros’ games were competitive; they had only one regular season win in excess of 20 points (versus L-O). To start the playoffs, Lanesboro again beat M-C (41-30). They then avenged the week two loss to SG, 33-6. So as a 3-seed, Team Burro made the 9-Man section 1 final, only to play 5-seed G-E (which beat 1-seed GM in the semis). The Burros crushed the Wolverines 52-8 to earn their fourth overall state trip. The playoff run was dramatic. Lanesboro beat Edgerton 29-28 in OT in the quarters and Goodridge/Grygla-Gatzke 34-26 in the semis to make the school’s first state title game. In a wild close one, the Burros fell to Cromwell-Wright Area 49-42. After the 0-2 start, Lanesboro won 11 in a row, going 11-3 and finishing their highest ever, state runner-up. It was probably the most competitive game-to-game season of any state qualifying “Journal 10” football team the entire decade. The Burros-to-opponent scoring difference was just 11.1 PPG. Semmen’s boys ran for 4,491 yards (320 per game). Seniors Jake Reed (RB/LB), Lucas Johnson (QB/DB), Shane Austin (OL/DL), and Jeremia Brown (OL/DL) made the All-SEC team. Brown was the ‘Lineman of the Year’ (team-best 7 sacks, team second-best 135 tackles). Coach Semmen tri-shared the ‘Coach of the Year.’ Austin was a three-time All-SEC pick. Freshman Niko Anderson (RB/LB) was All-SEC HM. Reed (1,577 yards, 18 TDs rushing, team-high 166 tackles), Anderson (1,368 yards, 20 TDs rushing, 21 total TDs), and Johnson (1,034 yards, 16 TDs rushing, 458 yards, 7 TDs, 8 INTs passing, 2 receiving TDs, KOR TD) all rushed for over 1,000 yards. Reed was 1st Team All-State 9-Man. Johnson and Brown were 9-Man All-State HM. Anderson went on to score 100 career TDs. Lanesboro’s next big football highlight didn’t happen until the 2020 team won the Section 1 9-Man title.
#10) Grand Meadow Football 2012
It is the team that got the Super Larks amazing set of state runs started. Back in 2012, GM football was a good program. The Larks had made multiple 9-Man Section 1 finals from 2005-2011, including going to state in 2009. But the next decade was far and above good. Coming off a 2011 season where GM went 8-3 and fell to Spring Grove in the section final, Gary Sloan’s group took its first big step toward a 2010’s super dynasty. GM started the year 6-0 before falling in a hyped match-up versus defending section champ Lions, 22-20. The Larks finished the regular season 7-1, then took down G-E 42-8 and Lanesboro 40-8 to force a re-match with the undefeated SG (1-seed, 10-0) in the section final. The Lions (countdown team #19) were down a couple key players. GM grabbed that win 25-6 to make state for a fifth time overall. At that point, Team Lark was 10-1, having scored 40-plus points in nine of ten wins (in every game save the two versus SG). GM allowed just 22 points in the three section playoff wins. But the run got better at state, as the Super Larks beat Mountain Lake 34-20 and South Ridge 61-6 to make the school’s first state football final since its only other excursion that deep, the 1987 Class C runner-up squad. But Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley (13-0) was then too much by a final of 40-22. GM finished at 12-2 as state runner-up. Five Larks made All-SEC. Seniors Brock Johnson (OL/DL) and Bryce Benson (OL/DL) each repeated. Fellow senior Andrew Bell (OL/DL) earned his first All-league pick, as did junior Trenton Bleifus (QB/LB) and sophomore Landon Jacobson (RB/LB). Collin Jacobson (TE/LB) made All-SEC HM. Bliefus (2,272 yards, 33 TDs, 4 INTs passing, 870 yards, 17 TDs rushing) had a huge year from behind center with a better than 8:1 TD/INT ratio. He made All-State HM. L-Jacobson (1,282 yards, 12 TDs rushing, 551 yards, 6 TDs receiving) had huge offensive year too. Benson, who was All-State 2nd team (all classes), led the team in receiving TDs (551 yards, 12 TDs). Four Larks caught at least six TDs. C-Jacobson (525 yards, 7 TDs receiving) and Mike Ojulu (6 TDs) also performed the feat. GM was highly balanced, rushing for 3,530 yards and passing for 2,343. The next four years, the Larks again made the state title game. All had happy endings (top six teams in the countdown).
#9) Rushford-Peterson Football 2016
From 1988 through 2008, Rushford/Rushford-Peterson football was a state power. Trojan teams made state eight times in that 20-year span including winning three state titles (’02, ’04, ’06). Their longest state draught was from 1989 to 1997. But to begin the 2010s, R-P found itself similarly dry of state runs. The Trojans had almost gone in 2014 (countdown team #25), but entering 2016, it had been seven years since making state. Enter Noah Carlson. He and his teammates took R-P to the brink of a state championship. Davin Thompson’s group started the year 7-0, getting a key win over FC (18-8) in week two. The Trojans only misstep occurred in the season finale, as they fell 28-21 at Goodhue (Carlson got injured). The loss prevented R-P from winning the Mid-Southeast-East District title alone. They shared it with Fillmore Central. In the section playoffs, 1-seeded R-P beat Kingsland 52-0 and Blooming Prairie 41-12 to enact a re-match with FC (countdown team #22). Jordan Goree (caused a big fumble), Jake Paulson (blocked a key PAT), Preston Lecy (game ending tackle), and (of course) Carlson (36-117 yards, 2 TDs rushing) were heroes. R-P (#9) stopped FC (#5) late to post a 22-21 win, its first section title since 2008. It was maybe the best county-county football game of the decade. At the state level, R-P mowed down Murray County Central 44-21 (Carlson 39-285 yards, 5 TDs) and then Browerville/Eagle Valley 49-0. The amazing season finally came to an end versus Minneapolis-North in the state finals. The Polars prevailed 30-14, leaving R-P as 1A runner-up. They finished the year 12-2. The Trojans scored 40-plus seven times in their last 11 games. Carlson garnered a boatload of honors after his 2,797-yard, 41 rushing TD, 47 total-TD season. He was the AP Player of the Year, 1st Team All-State, and the MSE-East ‘Offensive Player of the Year’ (his third All-Conference/All-District nod). Also making A-D were seniors Luke Rasmussen (WR/CB > 13 interceptions, 9 total TDs), Ethan Anderson (OL/DL), and Goree (RB/DB), juniors Paulson (TE/LB > team leader 887 yards, 12 TDs receiving) and Dawson Dahl (RB/LB > team leader in tackles), and sophomore Landon Skalet (QB > 1,612 yards, 21 TDs, 6 INTs passing, 124.2 QB-rating). Davin Thompson was MSE Coach of the Year. It was R-P’s high-water mark season of the decade. They’ve put out good clubs ever since, but haven’t made a section title game since.
#8) Fillmore Central Volleyball 2013
The 2013 Fillmore Central volleyball team, as clarified by time, is remarkable. It is the only “Journal 10” volleyball team of the decade to make state. All other “Journal 10” volleyball teams went 0-5 in Section title games. It is simply brutal to get out of Section 1 for volleyball. FC didn’t just do it, but progressed all the way to the state title match. It was the peak of FC’s fabulous mid-2010’s run. The year before in 2012, the Falcons went 26-6 (countdown team #47). A year after in 2014, FC went 24-8 and was Section 1A runner-up (countdown team #28). But in 2013, all the stars aligned. Out of the gates, FC started well, winning its first six TRC matches, but dropping a couple tourney bouts (to Rosemount) at the W-K Vet’s Invite. Entering the Class A Showcase, the Falcons were 10-2. They left Burnsville 16-2 with the Class A Showcase championship, having beaten three future state entrants: Nevis (25-11), Win-E-Mac (31-5), and Southwest Christian (31-5). Though many “Journal 10” teams have played the “Showcase,” FC’s was the only to win it in the decade. Doing so, garnered FC a #1 ranking in state. The Falcons won 22 straight matches to conclude the regular season, taking the Byron Tourney, winning the TRC (12-0) by sweeping every foe. Entering the playoffs, Denise Case’s Falcons were 29-2 and ranked #2. They beat SG and L-A each 3-0. In the East finals, they downed maybe M-C’s best ‘on paper’ team of the decade (one ranked #7 with multiple future college stand-outs) 3-1. In the 1A final, #2 FC then did what few have done and beat state super-power #4 Faribault B.A. 3-1 to clinch FC’s first ever state trip in volleyball. The Falcons maybe didn’t quite play their absolute best in St. Paul. It was a whirlwind season. But they beat Ada-Borup 3-1 and #5 Win-E-Mac 3-1 to make the Class A finals, running their win streak to 28. In a re-match (from the Class A Showcase) with Southwest Christian, the #3 Stars were too much. FC fell 3-0. They finished the year 35-3 at Class A runner-up. Senior Taylor Case (5’11” OH) led the charge. She earned her fourth All-TRC honor while making the Class A All-State team (449 kills, 409 digs). She finished her career with 1,392 kills and 1,375 digs. Fellow senior Tori Peterson (256 kills) repeated as All-TRC. Junior setter Morgan Malley also repeated having amassed 1,032 assists. Leah Scheevel (264 kills) earned her first All-TRC selection. Sammi Bakke and Sara Schultz made All-TRC HM. Four starters off this team (Case, Malley, Scheevel, freshman Tayah Barnes), each made All-State at some point in their careers. All four plus Tori Peterson went on to play college volleyball, Case, Peterson, and Malley having major success. It was a season that helped spawn FC’s strong volleyball program, one that exists to this day.
#7) Grand Meadow Football 2013
It was the first of four. From 2013 to 2016, a case could be made no other school was as acclaimed on the Minnesota high school football field as Grand Meadow. Twenty-thirteen was the year that started a run of back-to-back-to-back-to-back 9-Man state championships. The Larks came into the season having made the state championship game in 2012 (countdown team #10), falling to Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley. The duo of junior Landon Jacobson and senior Trenton Bleifus helped make GM a force in 2013. The Larks started the year 5-0, scoring at least 47 points in every game. But playing one game across two days was seemingly GM’s kryptonite, as Gary Sloan’s group lost to the Lanesboro (led by RB Niko Anderson) 47-36 in week six (a lightening-inspired Friday night, Saturday afternoon game). Days later, the Larks took down rival SG 12-7, then ended the season beating L/P. Those two wins earned team Super (6-1, 7-1) a share of the SEC crown with the Burros (6-1, 7-1) and Lions (6-1, 7-1). GM was the 3-seed in the Section 1 9-Man playoffs, but the responded by winning each of their section games by at least 17 points, felling L-O 47-14, getting revenge on Lanesboro 35-6, and beating (countdown team #27) SG 31-14 in the finals, earning a second straight trip to state. The Larks continued their dominant run there, beating all three opponents by at least 14 points. Mountain Lake Area fell 35-18 in the quarters, Kittson County Central 21-7 in the semis, and Underwood 28-6 in the finals. GM grabbed its first ever state championship in football. They finished the year 13-1, having notched 12 of their 13 wins by double digits. They rode Jacobson a lot starting with the playoff win over Lanesboro. He had 25-plus carries and 125-plus yards rushing in all five games, tallying over 850 yards rushing and 11 TDs in that span. He (RB/LB) and Bleifus (QB/DB) each repeated as All-SEC. Jacobson (1,900 yards, 29 TDs rushing, 30 offensive TDs) led the ground attack. Bleifus (1,524 yards, 15 TDs, 6 INTs passing, 718 yards, 20 TDs rushing) tallied over 2,200 passing/rushing yards. The duo accounted for 49 of GM’s 61 rushing TDs, as the team gained 3,433 yards on the ground (245 per game). Senior Isaac Tangen (C/DT) and junior Jordan Miland (OG/DT) made All-SEC for a first time. Junior Wyatt Richardson (G/DT) was All-SEC HM. The year started an unbelievable run. GM’s win streak was eight after this season. It got much larger.
*Fillmore County Journal Sports page is a written collaboration by Paul Trende and Lee Epps.