Down early and twice trailing by two touchdowns, Spring Grove twice got back within one score and then twice were close to the goal line with a chance to pull even or take the lead. But twice in the fourth quarter, the Lions did not score after reaching Southland 1-yard line and 5 yard-line. No. 4 seed Southland escaped with a 19-12 section quarterfinal win against No. 5 seed Spring Grove on Oct. 26 in Adams.
Trailing 13-6 in the final period, sophomore Elijah Solum thought he had gotten the ball across the goal line on a fourth-down-and-goal quarterback sneak. But he was ruled short of the white stripe. After veteran Rebel quarterback Harrison Hanna hit Jack Bruggeman with a 52-yard touchdown heave, Spring Grove was down by two touchdowns again (19-6) with 7:23 to play.
When hopes had begun to fade, Solum threw deep to running back Hunter Holland, who completed the 72-yard scoring shocker with one shoe still on his foot in the end zone and the other back on the 15 yard-line after a last-gasp dive by the last Rebel defender. Suddenly, it was a one score game again (19-12) with 3:49 remaining.
After the Lions forced a second straight Southland punt, Solum went long again for 44 yards, this time to Tysen Grinde. The Lions had a first down at the 5 yard-line with only 1:06 to go. Could the Lions, for the second time in three games, complete a two-touchdowns-in-the final-four-minutes, game-saving escape? On the next play, a pitchout was bobbled – a play that had been successful all night. Southland fell on the loose pigskin and two kneel-downs later, it was over.
The game had not started well for Spring Grove either. Just 25 days previous, Southland had rushed for seven touchdowns in a 46-14 rout at Lion Homecoming. On the first possession of this playoff rematch, the Rebels rolled right down the field 67 yards for an early 7-0 lead. After blocking a Spring Grove punt, Southland needed to go only 24 yards to make it 13-0, still in the first quarter.
There was pre-game uncertainty concerning Spring Grove’s big-play passing attack with two of the usual four-starting receivers out injured. Both Reid Bjerke and receiving-yardage leader Jaxon Strinmoen had their shoulders in slings instead of shoulder pads.
It did take the aerial attack a while to get going. After three punts and one unsuccessful fourth-down pass, the offense revived with a 41-yard touchdown pass. Playing his first game at wide receiver, converted tight end Carson Gerard overcame double coverage= by out-jumping a Rebel defender before racing the final 13 yards into the end zone. That 13-6 score would hold through halftime, the third quarter and half of the fourth period.
Despite the depleted receiving corps, Solum still had season highs with both 39 pass attempts and 18 completions for 243 yards (second most of the season) and both Lion touchdowns. Six receivers had catches; Grinde had nine receptions for 90 yards. In his first varsity start at tight end, sophomore Ethan Crouch had three catches (24 yards), and freshman Bryce Berns had his first varsity reception on third down for a critical first down that kept the final drive alive. Holland’s 72-yard TD strike was his first career TD grab.
Both quarterbacks had two touchdown passes and two interceptions. Lion junior Caleb Griffin caught two Spring Grove passes and picked off one Rebel toss, which he returned for 15 yards. Crouch also intercepted a Southland pass. With the Rebels preferring to run the ball, Solum went to the air three times as often as did Hanna, who completed 4 of 13 for 74 yards and the TD tosses for 8 and 52 yards. The Rebel quarterback also intercepted a Lion pass.
Contributing to Rebels’ survival was the field position provided by the excellent punting of Bruggeman, who averaged 48.5 yards while punting five times. All 13 Spring Grove possessions started in its defensive end of the field. The sophomore’s first effort, a 61-yarder, pinned the Lions back on their 12 yard-line. Five plays later, the Rebels blocked a Spring Grove punt and took possession at the 24. Four plays later, it was 13-0. Much later, after Southland’s goal line stand inches from the end zone, the Lion defense forced a punt. But Bruggeman boomed a 51-yard punt out of his end zone
One major difference in this competitive rematch and the Rebel rout earlier in the month was the Spring Grove defense. Southland’s passing yardage was cut in half (151 to 74). And after the Rebels had gouged out 252 yards on the ground with 50% third-down success at Lion Homecoming, the Rebels were limited to 145 rushing yards and 11% third-down success in the section rematch.
However, it appeared it would be a rushing repeat when Southland took the opening kickoff and then rolled 67 yards (with only one pass) for a touchdown. But then the Lions stop troops stiffened, and Spring Grove would significantly outgain the higher seed, 350 yards to 219. Brendan Kennedy, who had scored four touchdowns while roaming for 143 yards at Spring Grove was limited to 86 yards, including a 2-yard TD run on his home field. He also caught an 8-yard touchdown pass.
Also instrumental were fewer fumbles. The Lions had put the ball on the grass 10 times, losing it five times, during the first meeting when SG had a season-worst six turnovers in 13 possessions. But in the rematch, there was one special teams bobble, but the Spring Grove offense fumbled only once. Unfortunately, the Lions’ last chance ended with that first-down drop at the Rebel 5 yard-line. The avoidance of fumbles and cutting their turnover total in half had kept the Lions in the game. Spring Grove lost the turnover battle in each Southland game, but in the rematch (SG 3 turnovers, Southland 2), not until the final minute.
Spring Grove’s season ended with a 3-5 record while Southland improved to 4-5 before being eliminated by No. 1 seed and No. 2 state-ranked Lanesboro, 45-21. The Rebels lead the all-time series with Spring Grove, 12 wins to 3. They have met only three times in 9-man games with Spring Grove winning in 2019 and Southland twice in 2021 with no game played during the pandemic-abbreviated 2020 season.
Southland 19, Spring Grove 12
SG— -0 6 0 6 = 12
Sou—13—0—0—6 = 19
YARDAGE (rush + pass): SG 350 (107+243), Sou 219 (145+74)
RUSHING: att.-yards (avg.): SG 29-107 (3.7); Sou 38-145 (3.8) TD
PASSES: comp-att-int, yds. (TD): SG 18-39-2, 243 (2 TD); Sou 4-13-2, 74 (2 TD)
Sacks allowed: SG 1, Sou 0
TD: SG 2 pass, Sou 2 pass
PAT: SG 0-2 (0-2 kick); Sou 1-3 (1-3 kick)
TOTAL PLAYS: SG 68, Sou 51
AVG. yards per play: SG 5.1, Sou 4.3
FUMBLES – LOST: SG 2-1, Sou 2-0
TURNOVERS: SG 3, Sou 2
PENALTIES: SG 3-15, Sou 4-33
3rd downs: SG 5 for 16, Sou 1 for 9
4th downs: SG 2 for 6, Sou 1 for 3
Red zone: SG 0 for 2, Sou 2 for 2
First downs: SG 15, Sou 10
Plays of 20+ yards: SG 3, Sou 2
RUSHING 29-107: Hunter Holland 16-67; Elijah Solum 11-40; Caleb Griffin 1-7; Team 1-(-7)
PASSING: Elijah Solum 18-39-2, 243 (2TD)
RECEIVING 18-243: Tysen Grinde 9-90; Hunter Holland 1-72, TD; Carson Gerard 2-43, TD; Ethan Crouch 3-24; Caleb Griffin 2-8; Bryce Berns 1-6
KICKOFF RETURNS: Tysen Grinde 2-30; Caleb Griffin 2-15
PUNT RETURNS: Tysen Grinde 2-24
XP KICKING: Caleb Griffin 0 for 2
SCORING: Carson Gerard 6, Hunter Holland 6
PUNTING: Gavin Ostern 3-85 (28.3); team 1-0 (blocked)
INTERCEPTIONS: Caleb Griffin 1-15; Ethan Crouch 1-6
PASS BREAKUPS: Carson Gerard 1
BLOCKED PUNTS: none
FUMBLE RECOVERIES: none
FUMBLES FORCED: none
TACKLES for LOSS (incl. sacks): Carson Gerard 1, Ethan Crouch 1
TACKLES (solo + assists): Elijah Solum 9 (4+5); Caleb Griffin 6 (4+2); Ethan Crouch 6 (4+2); Carson Gerard 6 (3+3); Tysen Grinde 6 (2+4); Zach Brumm 5 (2+3); Ty Cleven 3 (3+0); Jacob Olerud 3 (1+2); Logan Brumm 3 (0+3); Camron Kraus 1 (1+0); Noah Blackburn 1 (1+0)
RUSHING 38-145: Brendan Kennedy 20-86, TD; Christian Luthe 7-53; Harrison Hanna 7-4; Isaac Felten 1-5; Team knees 3-(-3)
PASSING: Harrison Hanna 4-13-2, 74 yds, 2TD
RECEIVING 4-74: Jack Bruggeman 1-52, TD; Brendan Kennedy 2-20, TD; Isaac Felten 1-2
XP KICKING: Jack Bruggeman 1 for 3
SCORING: Brendan Kennedy 12, Jack Bruggeman 8
PUNTING: Jack Bruggeman 5-242 (48.4 avg.)
INTERCEPTIONS 2: Riley Jax 1 – no return; Harrison Hanna 1 – no return
BLOCKED PUNTS 1: Cash Day 1
FUMBLE RECOVERIES 1: Brendan Kennedy 1
SACKS 1: Travis Kirtz 0.5; Jack Bruggeman 0.5
KICKOFF RETURNS: Harrison Hanna 1-19, Isaac Felten 1-5, unidentified 1-3
PUNT RETURNS: Harrison Hanna 2-14; Cash Day 1-12 (block)
>>Spring Grove football 2021 (3-5 season, 3-4 sub-district)
W at Houston 14-0 (Lions lead series 43-30-2)
Sat. Sept. 11 Lyle/Pacelli, CANCELED – Lions have won last 14, lead series 17-2)
W 28-26 at Mabel-Canton (Lions have won last 17; Cougars lead series 36-26)
L vs. Grand Meadow 17-20 (GM has won the last four; GM leads series 35-10)
L vs. Southland 14-46
L at LeRoy-Ostrander 6-46 (Cardinals have won the last three, lead series 15-13)
W vs. Kingsland 21-20 (Lions lead series 3-0)
L at Lanesboro 27-72 (Lions lead series 27-23-3)
SECTION: #4 seed
L at #5 Southland 12-19 (Rebels lead series 12-3)
>>B-team football (2 wins, 1 loss)
at Mabel-Canton, canceled
at Kingsland, canceled
W at Houston 20-12
W at Grand Meadow 32-6
L vs. Lanesboro 6-30
>>Junior high football (2 wins, 3 losses)
W vs. LeRoy-Ostrander 40-33
at Kingsland, canceled
L vs. Mabel-Canton 25-32 (storm ended game in second half)
W at Houston 39-6
L vs. Lanesboro 13-20
L at Southland 13-27