Football hopes are high again at Spring Grove in 2022, based on a trio of All-District skill players plus extraordinary depth in the line. The Lions are exceptionally experienced, returning seven of nine starters on both sides of the ball and almost all of the specialists in the kicking game. However, this experience comes off last year’s 3-5 season, the first losing record in 13 years.
One constant is the repeated presence of high-quality receivers and a productive quarterback in the shotgun, spread-formation attack. In 2022, it is a tall crew. Second-season starter at quarterback is 6-foot-1, 190-pound All-District junior Elijah Solum, throwing to two All-District wide receivers, 6-5 junior Jaxon Strinmoen and 6-3 senior Tysen Grinde. Last fall, in his first season as starting varsity quarterback, Solum passed for 1,233 yards and 13 touchdowns – 440 yards to Strinmoen (20 receptions, 4 TDs) and 437 yards to Grinde (30 receptions, 3 TDs) Other targets will be new starting tight end, 6-4, two-year letter winner Ethan Crouch plus slot receivers 5-10 senior, two-year letter winner Caleb Griffin and promising 5-11 sophomore letter winner Bryce Berns.
The running game was below par last fall, but Honorable Mention All-District running back Hunter Holland (5-9 Sr., 175) ran very effectively in the preseason scrimmages. The backup is sophomore Zach Brumm (6-1, 170). Solum is also a ball-carrying threat.
Holland may have more room to run with blocking up front from the deepest collection of Lion linemen in recent memory. Seniors Ty Cleven (6-0, 230) and Logan Brumm (6-0, 200) can play more than one position on both offense and defense. Another senior Cooper Olson (6-0, 270) will contribute along with a pair of sophomores with some starting experience: Brandon Jahnke (6-0, 240) and Emmet Engeldinger (6-2, 210) along with aforementioned junior Ethan Crouch (6-4, 220) at tight end. Junior Josh Newgaard (6-5, 240) and sophomore Shawn Crouch (6-4, 280) are also available as is senior Noah Blackburn (6-2, 275).
Third-year head coach Kody Moore said last year’s Lion defense “figured things out by the end of the season” with a strong finish. On the D-line, look for the same stalwarts as on the O-line. Returning linebackers are 2021 leading tackler Solum (100 tackles) and Holland, joined this year by junior Jacob Olerud (6-0, 170) and sometimes Ethan Crouch. Returning at corner back are tackle-for-loss leader Strinmoen and Griffin with Berns in the limelight as well. Depth is provided by junior Braedon Solie. Grinde will start again at safety.
Grinde, Griffin and Holland are three of last year’s kick returners. Grinde was the most active, averaging 21.8 yards per kickoff return with one touchdown. The kicking specialists return with Grinde punting, Holland kicking off and Griffin placekicking with long snaps from Olerud.
Numbers are strong with seven seniors, six juniors, 11 sophomores and nine freshmen. Other younger candidates include sophomore linemen Isaac Vick (6-0, 185) and Ben Udstuen (6-4, 165) along with freshman linemen Noah Heppner (6-2, 190), Christian Bjerke (6-1, 200), Tysen Moen (6-1, 260), Cashton Newgaard (6-2, 185) and Devon Williams (6-1, 215).
Sophomore backs include Sylas Flatin (5-7, 165), Troy Reinhardt (5-10, 130) and Asher Liptack (5-6, 135). Freshmen backs are Karson Betcher (5-10, 120), Gabe Klug (5-3, 140), Dash Ranzenberger (5-8, 180) and Jacob Solum (5-9, 160).
The coaching staff all returns with Moore assisted by Kaare Sanness, Don Hagen, Aric Elton and Brian Anderson, the later primarily responsible for the junior high Lions.
There was plenty of excitement and drama last fall with five competitive contests, including a one-point win over Kingsland and a two-point victory versus Mabel-Canton as well as a three-point loss to Grand Meadow and tight 19-12 section loss to Southland.
However, all three of the blowouts were losses. The Lions could not matchup in the regular-season game versus Southland (46-14) and were clubbed by both state champion LeRoy-Ostrander (46-6) and sub-district (regular season) champ Lanesboro (72-27). The game against last-place, winless Lyle/Pacelli was canceled by COVID. Spring Grove finished in the middle, tied for fourth place with Southland and Mabel-Canton.
Spring Grove and Mabel-Canton are the only two East Sub-district squads to return as many as three All-District stars? After a third-place regular season, LeRoy-Ostrander (12-2, 5-2 East) stormed to a state championship. Most of its superstars graduated, but the Cardinals’ entire receiving corps is back. Second-place Grand Meadow (8-2, 6-1 East) graduated three of its four All-District players, but the Superlarks do return five starters. Regular-season champ Lanesboro (10-1, 7-0 East) graduated four of its five all-league standouts, but the Burros were deep and dominant and return eight key contributors. Laden with upperclassmen, Lanesboro is the team-to-beat until someone proves otherwise.
Mabel-Canton (4-5, 3-4 East) brings back skill players but must rebuild the line. Southland (4-6, 3-4 East) graduated all four All-District performers, but the Rebels return 11 letter winners but only one senior. Houston (2-7, 2-5 East) has numbers but is also young with only four seniors. Kingsland (3-6, 2-5 East) brings back a starting honorable mention quarterback and dropped a tight 27-24 season-opener last weekend to Renville County West. Lyle/Pacelli was winless last year but has a senior-dominated squad in 2022.
Could the Lions be the most likely to leave the middle of the pack and challenge for a championship? Spring Grove should be improved, while some of the opposition reload. Grand Meadow gets the first chance at dethroning Lanesboro, hosting the Burros in the opener. Will the title still be in doubt when Spring Grove hosts Lanesboro in the regular-season finale?
Last year’s annual preseason scrimmages at Grand Meadow were canceled due to weather. This year, after more than an hour of rainstorm delay, the event continued under fair skies. After giving up an early long touchdown run against Lyle/Pacelli, Spring Grove outscored the Athletics, 2 touchdowns to 1. The Lions then outscored Grand Meadow, 3 TDs to 1 and finally Southland 3 to 0.
For the second straight season, the Lions open versus Houston, this year at home on Friday, Sept. 2 at 7 p.m. Last autumn, it was a hard-fought 14-0 road win over the Hurricanes, the Lions’ lowest scoring game in 22 years. It was scoreless at halftime before Spring Grove extended its winning streak over the ‘Canes to 16 games.
Spring Grove is again the only team to play all other eight East Sub-district rivals. The other teams each have one crossover game against a West Sub-District foe. There are home games with Houston, Mabel-Canton, LeRoy-Ostrander and Lanesboro. There are road trips to Lyle/Pacelli, Grand Meadow, Southland and Kingsland. Due to a lack of officials, the Sept. 24, road trip to GM (1 p.m.) and the Oct. 8 home encounter with L-O (5 p.m.) will be played on Saturday.
It will be quite a task to throttle Spring Grove’s explosive aerial attack. But will the ground game return to former prominence? Will the defense be able to better contend with the league’s most potent offenses? Coach Moore expressed the “need to do a better job of being physical up front and running the ball. Physicality in the trenches on both sides of the ball needs to be better.”
Lions the Last 7 Seasons (SG Football)
2021 3-5 (3-4 East, 4th tie)
2020 5-3 (4-2 East 3rd)
2019 7-3 (5-2 East, 3rd tie)
2018* 14-0 (7-0 East, 1st)
2017* 14-0 (7-0 East, 1st)
2016 9-2 (7-1 East, 2nd)
2015 9-2 (7-1 East, 2nd)
total 61-15 (40-10 league)
* state champion, section champ
Spring Grove football 2021
7:00 p.m. kickoff unless noted (series records go back to 1949)
Fri. Sept. 02….Houston—–last year: SG 14, Houston 0 (SG has won the last 16, leads series 43-30-2)
Fri. Sept.09…..at Lyle/Pacelli (Lyle)—-last year, canceled COVID. (Lions have won last 14, lead series 17-2)
Fri. Sept. 16….Mabel-Canton —–last year, SG 28, M-C 26 (Lions have won last 17; Cougars lead series 36-26)
Sat. Sept. 24…at Grand Meadow 1 p.m. —-last year, GM 20, SG 17 (GM has won the last four, lead series 35-10)
Fri. Sept. 30….at Southland (Adams)——last year, Sou 46, SG 16 & Sou 19, SG 12 (Rebels lead series 12-3)
Sat. Oct.08…..LeRoy-Ostrander 5 p.m.—last year, L-O 46, SG 6 (L-O has won the last three, leads series 15-13)
Fri. Oct. 14……at Kingsland (Spring Valley)—last year, SG 21, KHS 20 (Lions lead series 3-0)
Wed. Oct. 19…Lanesboro———-last year, LHS 72, SG 27 (Burros have won last two; SG leads series 27-23-3)