Several records set during state football championships

By : 
BILL BENTSON
Wheein' With Web

By the time you read this, November of 2018, will be “in the books.” It seems like the older you get, the faster the days fly by. Before we know it, Christmas and New Year’s will be here and gone and we’ll be writing 2019.

Question: Do you write the old year on your first check in the new year? Over the years I’m probably 50-50 on that one. But maybe you don’t use checks anymore?

The winter sports season is upon us. Most of the girls’ teams have had games and the boys’ basketball and wrestling will be having games and matches this weekend.

But before we get into the winter games let’s finish up the football.

Congratulations to both Spring Grove and Caledonia on the state championships. I saw both games and both had very impressive wins. Here’s a look at the state championship games. Many thanks to the staff at the Minnesota State High School League and, most specifically, Tim Leighton.

Class Nine-Man. Spring Grove completed a successful title defense following a 40-18 victory over Mountain Lake Area in the Class Nine-Man championship game on Friday, Nov. 23, at U.S. Bank Stadium. 

Senior quarterback Alex Folz, Spring Grove’s primary playmaker this season, capped his prep career with one final dazzling display with 263 rushing yards on 30 carries and scored four touchdowns to power the Lions (14-0) to their second championship in four state tournament appearances. 

Folz scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter with the combined yardage from those scampers accounting for 142 yards. His first was an 88-yard blast early in the third quarter that gave the Lions a 26-6 lead. Less than two minutes later, the Lions’ lead moved to 32-6 on his 4-yarder. 

Class A. First-year co-op Mahnomen/Waubun capped an historic inaugural season of uniting nearby football communities by capturing the Class A crown in stunning fashion with a 22-21 victory over BOLD in the title game on Saturday, Nov. 24, at U.S. Bank Stadium. 

The Thunderbirds (13-0) scored what proved to be the final margin of victory when senior quarterback Jon Starkey scored on a 10-yard run with 5 minutes, 12 seconds, remaining in regulation to pull Mahnomen/Waubun to within 21-20.

With little hesitation, Thunderbirds head coach John Clark, Jr., the activities director at Mahnomen High School, opted to go for the lead by attempting a two-point conversion. That move paid off when senior running back Parker Syverson zipped around the right end to tack on the two points. 

But then the Thunderbirds had to rely on its staunch defense, a unit that had kept BOLD’s potent attack scoreless in the second half.

The Warriors (13-1) had a promising ensuing drive, but it was halted when Mahnomen/Waubun senior linebacker Jayden Heisler forced a fumble on BOLD senior running back Dawson Vosika on the Thunderbirds’ 9-yard line. Heisler recovered the fumble to preserve the victory and the co-op’s first state championship.

It was the ninth football championship overall for Mahnomen High School. Syverson powered the Thunderbirds offensively with 190 yards rushing on 30 carries. Senior quarterback Jon Starkey chipped in 58 yards rushing and 66 passing yards. 

Class AA. Caledonia turned back a Barnesville upset bid that lasted three quarters before pulling away for a 21-0 victory in the Class AA championship game on Friday, Nov. 23, at U.S. Bank Stadium. 

The victory gave the Warriors (13-0) their fourth consecutive Class AA championship and ninth since 2007. It was the program’s tenth football crown overall. In 1976, the Warriors were the Class B champions. The win also was Caledonia’s 54th in a row, the longest active streak in the country. 

Caledonia, which powered its way to a 57-6 victory over Pipestone Area in the 2017 Class AA championship game, didn’t have the luxury of a wide margin a year later against Barnesville (11-3). The Warriors couldn’t breathe easy until the final minutes of the fourth quarter when they scored two touchdowns in a one-minute span to seal their victory. 

Class AAA. Rochester Lourdes staked its claim as the top Class AAA team in the past decade following a 24-7 victory over Fairmont in the championship game on Saturday, Nov. 24, at U.S. Bank Stadium. 

The Eagles (14-0) used a 17-point spree over the final quarter-and-a-half to record their fourth championship since 2010. In that span, Rochester Lourdes and St. Croix Lutheran were tied with three Class AAA crowns apiece. Rochester Lourdes captured titles in 2010, 2014 and 2016. The Eagles also won the Class A championship in 1979. St. Croix Lutheran won Class AAA championships in 2011, 2013 and 2017. Rochester Lourdes broke that deadlock behind a potent running attack that churned out 327 yards and produced three touchdowns.

Senior running back Zach Jungels led the Eagles with 234 yards on 27 carries and two touchdowns. He averaged 8.6 yards per carry. Senior running back Jake Groteboer chipped in 76 yards and his own rushing touchdown.
Senior kicker Ben Limburg snapped a 7-all tie with 4:33 left in the third quarter when he easily made a 36-yard field goal. Six minutes earlier, Fairmont had forged a 7-7 tie when senior quarterback Garrett Myren and senior tight end Thomas Johnson connected on a 56-yard scoring strike.

Class AAAA. SMB, a football co-op that combines students from St. Paul Academy, Minnehaha Academy and The Blake School, completed an amazing four-year journey by capturing the Class AAAA championship with a 44-18 victory over Willmar in the title game on Friday, Nov. 23, at U.S. Bank Stadium. 

Jalen Suggs, a junior quarterback and defensive back, was a standout on each side of the ball in accounting for five touchdowns in powering the Wolfpack (13-0), a team created when each of the schools was struggling with participation numbers. 

Suggs completed 9 of 11 passes for 216 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 67 yards and another score. For good measure, he returned an interception 97 yards for a touchdown that gave the Wolfpack a 31-12 lead about midway through the third quarter.

His interception return is believed to be a Prep Bowl record, however, that statistic isn’t documented. The return is believed to rank eighth all-time in MSHSL history. Levi Hintermesiter of Brandon-Evansville had a 104-yard interception return in 2008 against Bertha-Hewitt.

Class AAAAA. St. Thomas Academy bottled up Owatonna senior running back Jason Williamson for two quarters of play on Saturday, Nov. 24, limiting Minnesota’s rushing leader during the 2018 season to 38 yards on 11 carries.

But the second half was another story as he broke free enough to score on two long touchdown runs to spur Owatonna to a 14-3 victory over the Cadets in the Class AAAAA championship game at U.S. Bank Stadium. 

Williamson, a University of Minnesota recruit, completed the Huskies (13-0) successful title defense on a 71-yard run that produced Owatonna’s first lead, and then he punctuated a season of dominance on a 44-yard scoring run with 1:27 left in regulation. 

He finished the championship game with 184 rushing yards on 23 attempts and completed his senior season with more than 3,000 yards and 46 touchdowns. It is Owatonna’s third Class AAAAA championship since 2013. 

Class AAAAAA. Lakeville North defeated Eden Prairie for the second time during the 2018 season, but the stakes were significantly greater on Friday, Nov. 23, when the Panthers recorded a 28-21 victory in the Class AAAAAA championship game at U.S. Bank Stadium. 

A wide-open game in the first half by both teams turned into a defensive chess match in the second half that Lakeville North mastered with a pressure that forced turnovers, held the Eagles to short gains and eliminated big scoring plays en route to capturing the school’s first-ever state title.

In 2012, Lakeville North finished runner-up to Eden Prairie in the Class AAAAAA title game. As Lakeville High School, the Panthers won the Class A championship in 1988, the AA crown in 1992 and the Class AAAAA title in 2003. 

Junior running back RaJa Nelson scored what proved to be the winning touchdown when he snapped a 21-all tie with 4:36 left in the third quarter on a 10-yard scoring run. His third touchdown run of the game capped a 28-yard drive that started when the Panthers forced a fumble.

Most Valuable Teammate

The MVT award goes to student-athletes who demonstrate leadership and sportsmanship and who are respectful, supportive and committed to their team by putting the team before themselves. The head coaches of the teams participating in the Prep Bowl championships selected one player from their team to receive this honor. The award, in its third year, is sponsored by Wells Fargo and the MSHSL.

Receiving the honor in the nine-man game were Kai Bjerke (Spring Grove) and Drake Harder (Mt. Lake Area). The AA winners were Ryan Wagner (Caledonia) and Grant Inniger (Barnesville), AAA winners were Julian Bretton (Rochester Lourdes) and Jordan Wolter (Fairmont) and the AAAAA recipients were Zander Johnson (Owatonna) and Sean Creamer (St. Thomas Academy). Congratulation, guys, on this great honor!

Did you realize that four of the state champions this year were from Section One? Not surprised, are you?

That’s it for this week. I’ll have girls and boys basketball and wrestling next week, I promise. Did you know they named the gym in Hutchinson after Lindsay Whalen. Not surprised there either, are you? Check out John Millea at the Minnesota State High School League, he’s got all the latest.

Have a great week, one day at a time. Hey to my wife, Carol, the Great 8 and my Fab Four. Hasta luego, my friends. WEB.

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