One thing was certain when it came to football play-offs in Section 1 9-Man, Class A, and Class AA. There wasn’t too much dispute in the first two rounds over which teams were better. Top two seeds Spring Grove, Lanesboro, Fillmore Central, Chatfield, and Caledonia all blasted opponents to make their respective section finals.
#3 Lions Roar Through Houston and GM into 9-man Finals
Top seeded #3 in 9-Man Spring Grove remained undefeated (10-0) while storming into the 9-man section title game for the first time in four years with runaway, season-sweeping wins over Houston in the quarters, 48-16, and Grand Meadow in the semis, 47-6. They set up another rematch versus Lanesboro (2-seed, 9-1). In each game, the Lion offense achieved balanced rushing-passing yardage, and the defense dominated after giving up an early touchdown. Against Houston (8-seed, 1-7), the first half was tight until Tysen Grinde took an interception 97 yards, the Lions’ second touchdown in the final 46 seconds before halftime. SG had scored first, but Houston led 8-7 after the first quarter. But it would be 48-8 before the Hurricanes would score again in the fading minutes. On offense, Grinde (52 yards receiving) had three receptions, two of which reached the end zone (32, 14 yards). Caleb Griffin (5-53 yards receiving) had two TD grabs (6, 16 yards) and booted four extra points. Elijah Solum (13 of 18, 196 yards, 4 TD passing) also scored on a two-yard TD run and a two-point conversion carry. The other rushing touchdown came from lineman Ty Cleven with a one-yard plunge. Hunter Holland (10 carries, 101 yards) was the game’s leading rusher. Despite only 10 yards rushing in the first half, the ‘Canes remained in contention with three big pass completions. Morgan Rohweder went deep to Conner Porter for 23 yards to set up a 29-yard TD toss to Ethan Frauenkron (plus conversion run by Austin Groth) for an 8-7 lead. Down 21-8, a 43-yard trick pass play threatened to make it a one-score game before the only turnover in the game, Grinde’s stunning pick-six, made it 27-8 at halftime. Grove outgained Houston, 336 yards to
183. Rohweder (10 of 17, 97 yards, TD, INT), Austin Swenson (14-55, TD rushing), and Frauenkron (3-41, TD receiving) led Houston. The Lions then amassed a 411-to-137-yard advantage versus GM (4-seed. 6-3), which beat L/P in the quarters 36-22 (See ‘Football’). Solum hit Griffin with a 75-yard TD pass eight seconds into the game. The Superlarks countered with a 56-yard fake-punt TD pass from Corbin Ludemann to Jace Kraft, one of only two GM plays that went for double-digit yardage. That 7-6 Lion lead ballooned to 40-6 by halftime en route to the 47-6 final. Solum (186 yards passing) attempted a season-low 10 passes, but again completed four for touchdowns (1 interception). After Griffin’s 75-yard opener, Jaxon Strinmoen scored with two of his three receptions (56, 17 yards). Ethan Crouch scored with an 8-yard toss. There were three rushing TDs: a 25 yarder for Solum (5-55 rushing), a 44-yard sprint for Holland, who again surpassed 100 yards (8-103 rushing), plus a 5-yard plunge by Bryce Berns. Ludemann (3 of 8, 59 yards, TD passing) and Kraft (19-58 rushing, 2-56, TD receiving) led the Larks. GM closed at 6-4 with three losses to state-ranked teams.
#7 Burros Run Past Southland and M-C, Re-Match with #3 SG Set
Lanesboro football posted near identical quarterfinal and semifinal wins to make their third straight 9-Man final. James Semmen’s group ran past Southland and Mabel-Canton to earn a re-match with Spring Grove for a spot at state. Versus the Rebels (7-seed, 1-7), the #7 Burros (2-seed, 7-1) led 15-6 at halftime, but out-scored Southland 20-0 in third quarter for 35-6 lead, which stood as the final. The Burros out-gained Rebels 425 to 128, racking up 337 rushing yards. Mason Howard (18-133, 2 TDs rushing, 7 of 14, 88 yards, INT passing) and Orion Sass (17-164, TD rushing) did the big damage. Hayden Lawsteun (1-yard TD run) and Will
Harvey (5-yard TD run) added rushing scores. Luke Ruen (3-50 receiving) was the top ball catcher. Lanesboro (2-seed, 8-1) then hosted M-C (3-seed, 7-2), which beat LeRoy-Ostrander in the quarters 52-32 (See Football). The Cougars began the game by fumbling in their own end, which led to a Sass 3-yard run and a 7-0 game. After turning the Cougars away in their end on downs, the Burros went 72-yards in 12 plays. A Howard 9-yard TD run made (plus two) made it 15-0. After M-C was again turned away, Howard scored in just one play (61-yard run) to make it 21-0. M-C then made the Lanesboro three, but fumbled. The Burros then went 97-yards in nine plays, Howard hitting Ruen for an 8-yard TD pass. At the half, Lanesboro led 28-0. They prevailed 36-6. Sass (16-130, TD rushing) and Howard (13-112, TD rushing, 6 of 9, 76 yards, 2 TDs passing) each topped 100 yards rushing. Howard also hit Stephan Schultz for an 8-yard TD pass. Ruen (3-34, TD receiving) and Lawstuen (2-34 receiving) had the other catches. M-C was led by Cayden Tollefsrud (5-129 receiving, 12-37, TD rushing), Tyler Larson (19-88 rushing), and Isaac Underbakke (6 of 13, 129 yards, 2 INTs passing). M-C had five total turnovers. Burro Lucas Nikoloski had an interception and two fumble recoveries, Kaden Stettler an interception, Logan Torgerson a recovery. Lanesboro gained 281 on the ground, M-C 133. The #7 Burros (2-seed, 9-1) move on to face #3 Spring Grove (1-seed, 10-0) in the Section 1 9-Man final. M-C ends a strong season at 7-3. The three losses were to the above state-ranked teams.
#2 Falcons Implode Rockets, Head to Second Straight 1A Final
Fillmore Central (1-seed, 8-0) used a forfeit over Wabasha-Kellogg (8-seed, 0-8) to make the Class A semis. Versus Randolph (4-seed, 5-4), which beat Kenyon-Wanamingo 22-8 in the quarters, it was a one-sided affair. The Rockets vessel barely got off the launchpad before imploding. Class A #2 FC (1-seed, 9-0) went 63 yards with it first possession. A 44-yard Dillon O’Connor pass to Chase Christianson set up a Bryce Corson 5-yard TD run for a 7-0 lead. A bad punt snap then forced Randolph’s punter into an incompletion. It led to a six-yard field and a 5-yard TD run by Corson for a 14-0 lead. The Rockets next possession ended when Will Parker sacked Randolph QB J.D. Kuhn, forcing a fumble. Gunner Benson recovered it in the end zone for a TD. With 2:04 left in the first, it was 21-0. FC added three scores in the latter part of the second quarter. Christianson speedily housed a double reverse 73-yards (27-0). Luke Hellickson followed with a 27-yard interception return TD (33-0). O’Connor hit Christianson for a 23-yard TD pass late in the half. It was 40-0 at intermission. FC’s starters basically only played a series after halftime. Randolph had a trio of big second half TD runs, but the Falcons won handily 49-20. Corson (13-50, 3 TDs rushing, 2-58 receiving) and Christianson (3-84, TD receiving, 73-yard TD run) used their wheels to top 100 yards total offense. O’Connor (9 of 17, 166 yards, TD, INT passing) threw second fiddle to FC’s run game. Kyle Daniels (7-49 rushing), Noah Rothering (6-47 rushing), and Jake Fishbaugher (6-44 rushing) helped FC pile up 270 ground yards. The defense had two scores but also limited Randolph to 63 yards and three first downs in the first half. Collin Otto (7-153, 2 TDs rushing) and Charles Gustavson (16-151, TD rushing) led the Rockets. Otto had TD runs of 82 and 46, Gustavson 80, in the second half. Only one of the runs was on FC’s first-string defense. The #2 Falcons (1-seed, 10-0) will face Faribault B.A. (2-seed, 8-2), which beat Rushford-Peterson 42-20 in the semis.
#1 Gophers Blast Goodhue, Re-Match With #8 Caledonia Set
In week eight, #1 in AA Chatfield football nipped Goodhue 28-20. The upstart Wildcats had a chance for a tie late, but were suppressed. It was a game that opened some eyes. Goodhue dominated time of possession and first downs, seriously pressing the top-ranked Gophers. But there were asterisks to the game. A lot went Goodhue’s way. It was a home contest. They had multiple long drives (which ate up clock and shortened the game). Chatfield had multiple turnovers. Chatfield’s defense wasn’t the best. However, one thing was true. Goodhue couldn’t stop Sam Backer, period. The senior had three one-touch touchdowns. A re-match of the Gophers (1-seed, 9-0) and Wildcats (5-seed, 5-4) in the section semis wasn’t quite so Wildcat-friendly. Backer’s first touch went 68-yards to paydirt for an 8-0 lead. It began the first half scoring deluge by the motivated Gophers. Backer had Chatfield’s second TD too, a 4-yard run. Carter Daniels capped the first quarter scoring by returning a fumble 18-yards to paydirt (Drew O’Connor force). The tally was 23-0 after one. The Gophers then tacked on four scores in the second quarter. Backer hit Carrier for a 9-yard TD pass while adding a 1-yard TD run, his fourth overall score. Kail Schott had a 13-yard TD run. Parker Delaney hit Daniels for a 42-yard TD pass. The last three scores all came in the final six minutes of the half. A 30-0 game ballooned to 51-0. Chatfield cruised 51-14. Goodhue was limited to 120 yards total offense with three turnovers. One of their scores was a fumble recovery in the end zone. The Wildcats had 359 yards in the regular season game. Backer (14-161, 3 TDs rushing, 2 of 4, 26 yards, TD passing) again was big. He combined with Delaney (3 of 4, 48 yards, TD passing) to hit five different receivers. Daniels (42-yard TD reception, 40-yard interception return) and Schott (6-37, TD rushing) helped. Wildcat senior QB Will Opsahl (11 of 28, 74 yards, 2 INTs passing) struggled. Malakye Parker (18-51, TD rushing) led the ‘Cat ground attack. Chatfield received a forfeit win the 1AA quarters over Cotter (8-seed, 0-8). Jeff Johnson’s #1 Gophers (10-0) moves on to face #8 Caledonia (2-seed, 8-2) for the 1AA title.
#8 Warriors Plow Through L-A and SC, Re-Match with Chatfield Set
Caledonia football’s two-year section title game draught is over as the team the 1AA title went through for over a decade again will again have a say in who wins the section. Carl Fruechte’s group took out two lower seeds handily in the quarters and semis. The #8 in AA Warriors (2-seed, 6-2) first had no problem in stunning Lewiston-Altura (7-seed, 0-8). Cal led 34-0 at halftime and prevailed 47-0. The Warriors kept it on the ground, rushing for 273 yards and 4 TDs. They had just four pass attempts for 46 yards. It was defense’s fourth shut-out of the season (though their first since week four). And the guys stopping scores were offensive. Eric Mauss had a 53-yard fumble return TD in the first quarter, Ayden Goetzinger a 30-yard interception return TD in the second. Owen Denstad (10-109, 2 TDs rushing), Owen Staggemeyer (3-91, TD rushing), and Mauss (5-44, TD rushing) scored the TDs on the ground. Staggemeyer’s TD run was 75 yards. Ethan Stendel also hit Bronson Knutson on a 28-yard TD pass. Team Cal (2-seed 7-2) then hosted St. Charles (6-seed, 3-6), which upset Triton (3-seed) in the quarters 19-14. Caledonia handled the Saints in the regular season 46-14. Things didn’t change much in the post-season. The Warriors scored thrice in the first quarter to lead 21-0. Mauss (51-yards), Tucker Ginther (7-yards), and Stendel (3-yards) had rushing TDs. The Saints got a big second quarter passing TD to make it 21-7, but Caledonia led 34-7 at halftime. They prevailed 40-13. Goetzinger (8-80, TD rushing) and Mauss (8-74, TD rushing) led the ground game. Stendel (7-34, 2 TDs rushing) and Ginther also scored via land. The Warriors ran for 269 yards. Stendel (4 of 5, 78 yards, TD passing) hooked up with Caleb Conniff on a 45-yard TD pass. Mason Banse had a team-high 10 tackles. The #8 Warriors (2-seed, 8-2) will take on #1 Chatfield (1-seed, 10-0) for the 1AA title.