fter a hiatus, 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 play-offs. Starting at position #35 and going down to #17, it is the 19 teams that were Section runner-up in the decade. Placing is done mostly via winning percentage, but also how far their section final vanquisher progressed into the state tournament, competitiveness of games, and subjective opinion. Fourteen “Journal 10” football teams and five volleyball squads lost in section title games from 2010-2019. To expedite the process (in case winter sports start), teams will be looked at in groups of eight versus five.
#30) Fillmore Central Football 2015
While most teams on this list sustained their power amidst programs that were and are strong, this Fillmore Central team was different. They were the first team in a line of strong Falcon football, one that didn’t have a pedigree the prior year. In 2014, FC football went 2-7 overall. The 2015 incarnation had a huge turnaround for Coach Chris Mensink. The Falcons lost just once in the regular season, at L-A (minus the services of starting RB/LB Tyson Ristau). The Cardinals finished 10-1 as 1AA runner-up. FC had just two close games in the regular season, a 25-13 win over J-W-P to start the year, and a big 12-9 win over Goodhue in week three (that moved the Falcons to 3-0, surpassing their win total the prior season). After the loss to L-A, they won their last four regular season games by at least 20 points, garnering Section 1A’s top seed in the playoffs with a 7-1 record. It was FC’s first football #1 seed in school history. Following a quarterfinal bye, the Falcons hammered 4-seed W-K in the semis 35-0. It set up a re-match with Goodhue for the Section championship. But FC was handled thoroughly, falling 29-0. They finished the season 8-2. Coach Mensink was voted the Mid-Southeast-East Coach of the Year. FC got a league-best seven All-District players, a cast headed by seniors, repeat pick Tyson Ristau (RB/LB > 859 yards rushing, 11 total TDs) and Trace Tollefson (WR/S > 539 yards receiving, 3 TDs, four interceptions). Juniors Riley Means (QB/LB > 1,056 yards, 11 TDs, 3 INTs passing, 280 yards, 5 TDs rushing, 105 tackles), Sam Rustad (WR/DB), and Justin Ristau (OL/LB), plus sophomores Brady Ristau (RB/LB) and Luke Ristau (DE/OL) also were named All-District. A year later, FC got even closer to state, and took part in maybe the Decade’s biggest/best 11-man game (a team lower in the countdown). This 2015 season began an excellent three-year run of Falcon football, where they averaged eight wins a season (8-2, 9-2, 7-3).
#29) Houston Football 2018
From a team that began a run (FC 2015), to the peak of a school’s run. The 2018 Houston bunch is probably school’s best football team of the 2010s. Team double-H entered the year having gone 6-4, 7-3, and 8-2 the previous three years. Each time, they won a playoff quarterfinal, only to fall in the semis. Cody Hungerholt’s group took the next step in 2018. Each of Houston’s wins in the regular season, save a 54-46 double-OT victory over Randolph, were by double digits. The ‘Canes averaged 35.6 points per game. In the play-offs, Houston got by L-O 50-40 and beat GM 36-14 to force a re-match with Spring Grove, their only regular season loss (35-14). Houston played it right, controlling the ball, keeping it away from the Lions offense led by standout Alex Folz. But a couple empty goal-to-goal situations doomed the Hurricanes. Folz made big plays and SG won the 9-Man Section 1 title 28-6. Houston finished at 9-2, making their first section title game since 2009, posting their highest win total since the 14-0 state title team of 2008. SG went on to become the 9-Man state champion. Seniors Jaytin Millen (RB/LB) and Joey Fishel (RB/LB) headlined Houston’s All-District picks. Millen ran for 1,465 yards and 15 TDs, scoring 17 TDs overall. Fishel was honored as the South-East District Defensive Player of the Year, having notched 12 sacks while rushing for 1,041 yards and 13 TDs. Fellow seniors James Hongerholt (QB/S) and Kyle Twite (C/DL) also made A-D. Fishel and Hongerholt were repeat picks. Aaron Francis (Sr. RB) and Alec Francis (Jr. G/DL) made A-D HM. A year later, Houston made the 9-Man Section 1 title game again, going as the 5-seed (team #35 on this countdown). They again fell, this time to GM. But this 2018 squad was probably the height of the ‘Canes run.
#28) Fillmore Central Volleyball 2014
There was the team before “the team,” the 2012 Fillmore Central volleyball squad that went 26-6 (#47 on this countdown). There was “the team,” the 2013 Fillmore Central volleyball team that went 35-3 and made the state title game (a top 10 team on this countdown). And then there was the team after “the team.” In 2014, Travis Malley took over for his first year as head coach of the Falcons coming off FC’s only state berth ever. They had lost two standout outside hitters in Taylor Case and Victoria Peterson. But they returned a strong senior crew headed by Morgan Malley, Leah Scheevel, and Sammi Bakke. FC lost just one non-tournament game in the regular season, 3-2 to Hayfield. For a second straight year, they swept through the Three Rivers Conference undefeated to claim the league title. They swept all but one league foe (St. Charles 3-2), including second place Chatfield. FC went 36-2 in TRC sets. It marked an end to a two-year span where the Falcons went 23-0 in the TRC. In the play-offs, #11 in A FC beat Houston 3-1, W-K 3-0, and a #7 in A Mabel-Canton (31-5) 3-0. Said foes combined to make twenty just twice. FC claimed its second straight 1A East title. Waiting in the finals was #1 ranked Faribault B.A., the team FC beat in 2013 to make state. But devoid Case, FC wasn’t as powerful, and they fell 3-0 (27-29, 22-25, 16-25). The Falcons finished 24-8 with the school’s only 1A Runner-Up trophy in volleyball. The Cardinals went on to the Class A state title. Seniors led the way for FC. Long-time setter Morgan Malley (5’8”), who finished with over 3,200 assists, made 1st Team Class A All-State, All-TRC a third time. Middle hitter Leah Scheevel (5’9”), who became a force as a senior (272 kills), made 1st Team All-State as well, repeating as All-TRC. Classmate Sammi Bakke (5’11” MH) also made All-TRC (202 kills). Senior Sara Schultz (5’6” DS/libero > 311 digs) and sophomore Tayah Barnes (5’5” DS/libero > 379 digs) made All-TRC HM. FC volleyball hasn’t risen to the heights of the 2012-2014 span since. Coach Malley is still around and the Falcons are year-in, year-out, still a top-team in the TRC and sub-section.
#27) Spring Grove Football 2013
The Lions went 9-2 (6-1 SEC), and for the fourth straight season, won or shared the conference title – this year sharing the top spot with Lanesboro and Grand Meadow (Lanesboro beat GM, GM beat SG, and SG beat Lanesboro). SG extended its SEC winning streak to 21 games (before the loss to GM), was state-ranked as high as #8 (finished #9), and earned the top section seed. They started the year 6-0. Both Lion losses came against the eventual state champion Super Larks, whose closest game all season was a 12-7 home win over SG in week 7. GM, taking advantage of four Lion turnovers, won the rematch in the section finals, 31-14. SG had ripped co-champ Lanesboro, 42-14, in week 2. There was a 28-24 close call at Houston in week 3, but SG clobbered the Hurricanes, 56-6, in the section semi-finals. Zach Hauser’s group averaged 42.6 points per game. Nick Holty was the Conference Lineman of the Year. Seniors Holty and Lion MVP, leading rusher and tackler Caleb Happel (RB/LB > 1,404 yards rushing, 26 total TDs, 97 tackles, 5 sacks) were both All-SEC for a second season. Junior receiver/safety Dustin Vickerman (658 yards, 6 TDs receiving) and sophomore TE/DE Brady Schuttemeier (95 tackles) also earned All-SEC honors with Honorable Mention going to OL/DL Harrison Speltz. This was the second of five straight 9-Man Section 1 title game trips for the Lions which ended in defeat at the hands of Grand Meadow. It was the first of four seasons where SG went 9-2 with each loss coming to the Larks.
#26) Spring Grove Football 2016
SG was state-ranked as high as #2 and finished #5. With five special-teams touchdowns, these were the highest-scoring Lions of all time (52.3 PPG). Zach Hauser’s group went 9-2 overall and 7-1 in league play for a fourth straight season. They were section runners-up to Grand Meadow for a fifth consecutive campaign. SG scored 62 points or more in five of 11 games (including their two play-off wins). The closest games were 47-34 and 41-21 setbacks to undefeated state champion Grand Meadow. Grove averaged only one turnover a game and had a plus-15 turnover margin, stats that are each second-best in 18 seasons of recordkeeping. Seniors Chase Grinde (WR/S > 907 yards, 14 TDs receiving, 16 total TDs) and leading tackler Brock Schuttemeier (TE/LB > 140 tackles, 6 sacks, 9 total TDs) were both First Team All-State 9-man and All-Area. Grinde was also Sub-District Back of the Year, All-District for a third year, and Lion MVP for a second time. Senior Jordan Jaster (C/NT) received Honorable Mention All-State and was All-District for a second season. Schuttemeier, sophomore Alex Folz (QB/LB > 2,269 yards, 32 TDs passing, 868 yards, 17 TDs rushing, punt return TD, kick-off return TD), and junior Cullen Paterson (RB/CB > 911 yards, 15 TDs rushing, 17 total TDs) were also All-District with Honorable Mention going to sophomore Ethan Matzke (WR/DE) and junior George Boyd (OL/DL). It was the last of SG’s four-year run of going 9-2 and losing twice to state champion GM. A year later, the section game heartbreak for the Lions finally ended. Guys on this 2016 squad who weren’t seniors, got to be a part of something special. Guys on this team who were sophomores, got to be a part of something special twice. Lion teams in 2017 and 2018 were the crème-de-la-crème of 9-Man football. Both will be discussed in the final installment of this countdown.
#25) R-P Football 2014
It could be called the Kingsley/Vix group. The 2014 incarnation of Rushford-Peterson football featured all three of R-P’s top male athletes of the decade at varying stages of their careers. It was a team that had serious state hopes, but came up short. A year earlier, injuries had deprived a good Trojan team of a play-off run. R-P had gone 6-2 in 2013, with respectable losses to Class AA powers Chatfield 24-7 and Caledonia 14-0. But, not nearly at full strength, they fell 47-20 to Southland in the play-offs. A year later, R-P marked it presence early in the season by beating the defending Class AA champ Gophers 29-13. The Trojans only loss in the regular season was 7-6 at Caledonia. Their nine wins were all by at least 16 points, and by an average of 36.4 per game. R-P averaged 39.1 points per game. Included was a 66-20 demolition of Faribault B.A. in the 1A semifinals. But in the finals, Davin Thompson’s group fell behind Blooming Prairie early. Led by future Winona State Warrior John Rumpza, the Blossoms (ranked #6 in Class A) were too much for the Trojans (ranked #7 in Class A). R-P’s season ended at 9-2 with a 36-21 loss. BP lost in the first round of the state play-offs to Minneapolis-North 14-6. Seniors Cole Kingsley (RB/DB > 974 yards, 14 TDs rushing, 361 yards, 4 TDs receiving, 20 total TDs, six INTs) and Alex Vix (RB/DB > 901 yards, 9 TDs rushing, 602 yards, 5 TDs receiving, 15 total TDs) headed the Trojans’ All-SFA Blue picks, each racking up their third All-Conference honors on the gridiron. Fellow seniors, leading tackler Josh Agrimson (OL/LB > 132 tackles), Brandon Eide (OL/DL), and Jonnie Koenen (QB > 1,412 yards, 16 TDs, 5 INTs passing) also made All-SFA, as well as freshman Noah Carlson (sophomore RB/DB > 7 INTs). Kingsley made second team All-State. Carlson, Kingsley, and Vix were respectively all in the top 12 of last spring’s Journal All-Decade Top 20 football list. Though losing in the section title game on the football field, the disappointment lasted just a few months. R-Ps three standout athletes moved on to basketball season where they won the Class A title. Carlson later led R-P to the state finals on the gridiron (a team lower in the countdown).
#24) Spring Grove Football 2015
Spring Grove went 9-2 (7-1 district) and outscored the opponents by a program record 39 points per game. SG scored 61 or more points in each of the first four games of the season. The Lions allowed only 10.5 points per game, one of the three best defensive scoring averages in the last 53 seasons (2011, 1975). On the way to their fifth straight section title game, they limited seven of 11 opponents to single-digit scoring and had a record plus-16 turnover margin. Holding the eventual state champions to their fewest points of the season, state-ranked #2 SG fell to #1 Grand Meadow, 21-20, in the regular season finale. The Lions started the year 7-0 prior to the loss, a battle of unbeaten teams. But it was all Super Larks in the section finals, 35-7. SG finished state-ranked #4. While the Lions converted half of their third downs, they held opponents to only 25% success, the best third-down defense in the 17 years for which that stat exists. Wide receiver Alex Engelhardt (682 yards, 9 TDs receiving, 16 total TDs) and DE Brady Schuttemeier (10 ½ sacks), each a senior, were both First Team All-State 9-Man selections. Schuttemeier (TE/DE) was Sub-District Defensive Player of the Year and All-League for a third season. Engelhardt (WR/LB) and Lion MVP, junior Chase Grinde (QB/S > 1,624 yards, 23 TDs, 10 INTs passing, 15 rushing TDs, six INTs, two pick sixes) were both two-year league honorees. Also All-District were senior WR/CB Dylan Kampschroer (557 yards, 11 TDs receiving, 12 total TDs) and junior OL/DL Jordan Jaster. Receiving Honorable Mention were OL/LB Gabe Solum and OL/LB Brock Schuttemeier. It was SG’s third straight year of going 9-2 and losing to state champion Grand Meadow twice.
#23) Spring Grove Football 2014
State-ranked as high as #4 and finished at #5, Spring Grove (9-2, 7-1 SEC) reached the section title game for the fourth straight season. The Lions had been edged 20-18 at Grand Meadow in week three, but without their two most explosive offensive weapons, they were blanked 23-0 by GM in the section championship rematch – one of five GM playoff shutouts. The Lions out with injuries were both the section’s leading rusher Dustin Vickerman and section’s leading receiver Chase Grinde. This Lion team broke program records with a 51.2-point scoring average and by outscoring the opposition by an average 35.7 points per game. Both stats now rank second all-time. They scored 46 points in every win. Only eventual state champion Grand Meadow held SG to fewer than 46 points. The Lions scored 98 points at Homecoming, topped 70 three times, and defeated #7 state-ranked Randolph, 48-16. SG had four pick sixes for scores. The senior Vickerman (1,257 yards, 22 TDs rushing, 27 total TDs) was Lion MVP and Conference Back of the Year. He and junior TE/DE Brady Schuttemeier (7 ½ sacks) were All-SEC for a second season. Also all-conference were the sophomore Grinde (794 yards, 9 TDs receiving, 13 total TDs), senior OL/DL Harrison Speltz (6 sacks), senior QB/DB Keenan Siminski (2,234 yards, 28 TDs, 7 INTs passing, 7 rushing TDs), and junior WR/LB Alex Engelhardt (620 yards, 6 TDs receiving, 7 total TDs, seven fumble recoveries) with Honorable Mention going to lineman Tanner Sanness. It was the second of four straight years where SG went 9-2, losing twice to state champion GM.
*Fillmore County Journal Sports page is a written collaboration by Paul Trende and Lee Epps.
Mabel-Canton Fall Award Winners
Mabel-Canton has released its fall sports individual award winners. Football team award winners are Gavin Johnson (M.V.P, Hardest Worker, Most Valuable Offensive Back, Most Valuable Defensive Line), Robert Michels (Most Improved), Hayden Erickson (Most Valuable Scout Player), Cayden Tollefsrud (Most Valuable Defensive Back), and Randy Gerard (Most Valuable Offensive Line). Volleyball team award winners are Kenidi McCabe (M.V.P), Sophie Morken (Most Improved), Jordyn Newgard (Hardest Worker), and MaKenzie Kelly (Team Player). Newgard, Lauren Wyffels, and Kaylor Soiney made Academic All-State. Cheerleading award winners are Katelyn Kleiboer (Most Dedicated), Grace Solberg (Most Spirited, Sportsmanship), and Savannah Phillips (Most Improved). Kleiboer made the All-American team. The trap shooting teams’ top five shooters were Colton Heintz-Kuderer, Austin Snell, Emma Middendorf, Dawson Kleiboer, and Tracer Tollefsrud. Heintz-Kuderer took second and Snell third at conference awards (boys), Middendorf first (girls). The same trio were All-State (top 100). Additionally, Heintz-Kuderer and Katelyn Kleiboer won the Triple-A Award. Emily Carolan and Jaymeson Tollefsurd won the Excel Award.