After giving up an early touchdown, the Spring Grove defense took control of a 9-man state semifinal between undefeated teams. During the 27-6 Lion win against state-ranked #2 Fertile-Beltrami, Tysen Grinde logged 198 yards of all-purpose running, including a stunning 76-yard punt return TD. Despite Elijah Solum completing 12 of 18 passes, the #3 Lions, for the first time this season, did not have a passing touchdown and gained a season-low 116 aerial yards. But Hunter Holland ran for 124 yards, his sixth 100-plus performance of the year. However, it was Solum (19 carries, 67 yards) who scored all three rushing touchdowns on 14, 2 and 4-yard carries. Head Coach Kody Moore was quick to credit both the Lion offensive and defensive linemen. “The defense did its job.” He said one goal was to limit the rushing of Isaiah Wright, who was held to 58 yards on 17 carries (3.4 Y.P.C.) with a longest gain of 12 yards. The normally run oriented Falcons had little success on the ground, again 3.4 yards per rush. SG outgained F-B 188 yards to 156 rushing and 116 to 91 passing. The Falcons’ most explosive play was a 19-yard touchdown pass from Caiden Swenby to tight end Ryan Van Den Einde. That play capped a 13-play, 83-yard drive on the first Fertile-Beltrami possession. It marked only the third time all season that Spring Grove had trailed. That 6-0 lead lasted only 71 seconds. The Lions, who had gone three-and-out after receiving the opening kickoff, used only five plays to seize the lead. Back to pass, Solum was chased by three Falcons to the sideline where he found Grinde (5-64 yards receiving), who turned a short, desperate pass, into a 28-yard gain (the longest play of the game) down to the F-B 22 yard-line. Solum would run the final 14 yards and then hold for Caleb Griffin’s extra-point kick and a 7-6 Lion lead. Four plays later, Grinde’s punt return made it 14-6, just two minutes and 21 seconds after the Falcon TD. Neither team scored during the middle two periods, but the Lions threatened twice before halftime. A 46-yard drive ended with a fumble at the Falcon 4 yard-line. And then a 17-play, 77-yard march ended on downs at the Falcon 10. Both squads came in averaging over 44 points per game. The Falcons, after scoring on their first possession, threatened only one more time all game. After an interception provided good field position at the Lion 36, a fourth-down, sideline tackle by Jaxon Strinmoen at the SG seven, preserved a still-precarious 14-6 Lion lead. The Grove guys did not create a little more breathing room until a 6-play (all runs), 81-yard march ended with a 2-yard Solum TD carry with 8:22 to play. Grinde made a leaping interception to kickstart the final scoring drive of 52 yards. Solum scored
from four yards out, and it was 27-6 with 2:45 on the clock. The final Falcon possession ended with quarterback sack by Logan Brumm. There were no explosive scrimmage plays. F-B prevented any long Lion pass completions, but Solum and five different receivers enjoyed success with short and medium-length passes along with a ground attack that averaged 4.8 yards per carry. Besides Grinde’s punt return, the play of the game came with Solum scrambling to his left and flicking with his right hand a short toss to Griffin for an eventual 12-yard gain and first down. Solum was also the leading tackler with 13 stops. Griffin had 10 tackles, Emmet Engeldinger nine, Brumm nine, Ethan Crouch eight, and Jacob Olerud eight. Spring Grove had scored on its first possession in 10 of the 12 previous games; it did not happen against the state’s #2-ranked team. However, as the Lions had the previous two times they fell behind, replied quickly to grab the lead. The Grove defense then shut the door and shut out the Falcons in their final 10 possessions. F-B, the defending state runner-up, closed at 11-1. The Lions (13-0), in their fifth trip to state, return to the championship game for the third straight time, planning on adding to their 2017 and 2018 state titles.