Halstad, Minnesota, 4:22 a.m.

I’m spending a few days “up north,” keeping my wife company at the “PaPa and Tata’s store,” the north version. The south store has been housed in our garage in Fountain. We had a great Thanksgiving dinner, prepared by our daughter, Roberta Jo. I think she’s preparing turkey for the first time, so it was an interesting encounter. I will give you the “scoresheet” next week.

When I started my car to head north, I noticed a light on, one that I hadn’t seen before, at least in this car. I took it up to my favorite mechanic at Herman’s Service. Within minutes, literally, the light was off, and I was on my way. Nice work, guys!

It’s a mor-than-400-mile trip up here, so the radio becomes a constant companion. As soon as I got out of the KFIL listening area, which is about Zumbrota, I tune into WCCO radio. The WCCO weatherman told me I was going to encounter wind around Detroit Lakes. Boy, did ol’ Mr. 50-50 ever hit that one right. The 30 to 40 mph wind gusts nearly blew me off the road. It got a little better when I headed north on Highway 9, but my gasoline mileage dropped about 15 miles per gallon.

Tuesday I drove up to Crookston and visited with the University of Minnesota — Crookston head women’s basketball coach, Mike Roysland. Mike is the father of Kelly Roysland, former U of M standout and Fosston High great. Kelly played in 11 or 12 state tournaments, volleyball, basketball and golf. Kelly is now the head women’s basketball coach at Macalester College, St. Paul.

Speaking of U of M-Crookston, Saturday the team hosted Bemidji State for a men’s basketball game. I was planning to get to that game and hopefully have a visit with Kyle Sorenson of Caledonia. Kyle is a sophomore this year and plays for the Beavers. He started the season as a starter, but see he’s moved into a substitute role the last three games.

Before I can go to the game at UMC, I have to work the kitchen at a vendor/craft fair in Halstad. That should be fun. The menu is simple…hot dogs, barbecues, chips and pop.

When I get up this way I run into a lot of towns that I mention in my column, but never really get to visit on a regular basis — Winger, Erskin, McIntosh (Win-E-Mac), Fertile, Beltrami, Mahnomen, Gary, Twin Valley, Ulen, Waubun, etc. The list goes on and on, just like it does in the southeast part of the state.

This past weekend wrapped up the 2017 football season, so maybe better get into those results and preview the Prep Bowl games.

Nine-man semi-finals

Spring Grove downed Stephen-Argyle, 27-7, and moved into its first-ever state championship game. The game was tied 7-7 at halftime, but 20 points for the Lions in the third quarter put the game out of reach for the Storm.

SG scored 27 straight points after falling behind 7-0, midway through the first quarter. Alex Folz scored all four touchdowns for Spring Grove, on runs of 4, 7, 8 and 14 yards. Folz was also responsible for three of four PATs.

In the post-game interview, Folz gave all the credit to the offensive line. “They make it all happen,” he said. “We’re a team, and all in this together.”

Folz carried the ball 29 times for 175 yards, averaging 6.0 yards per carry. Cullen Patterson had 33 yards on 11 carries (3.0/carry) and Noah Elton picked up 16 yards on just two carries, 8.0/carry. Folz also passed the ball 23 times, with 17 completions. He threw one interception and no touchdowns, for a total of 214 yards. On the receiving end of the passes were Elton (six for 127 yards), Adin Solum (4 for 43 yards), Luke Schneider (3 for 16 yards), C Patterson (2 for 19 yds.) and Sam Sanness (2 for 9 yds.).

The Lions pretty much dominated the game, with the exception of the first score. Total yards of offense favored Spring Grove, 436-169; first downs, 22-6; and time of possession was 31:50-16:10, also in favor of the Lions.

Defensive standouts in the win were George Boyd (six solo tackles, three assists), Folz (7s), Taylor Holty (5s, 3a), Ethan Matzke (3s, 3a), Luke Schneider (2s, 2a), C Patterson (2s,1a), Reese Crouch (2s), Elton (1s,1a), Sanness (1s,1a) and Solum (1s).

Spring Grove (13-0) took on Nevis (11-1) in the championship game this past Friday. Neither team has won a state football championship. This is the third appearance for the Lions and the fifth trip to the state for the Tigers. SG was the number-one ranked team in the final poll, Nevis was number six.

Nevis’ only loss came to Norman County East/Ulen-Hitterdal (20-14) during week six of the regular season. The Tigers avenged that loss in the finals of the Section Six playoffs, 20-18. Nevis prefers the ground game, rather than passing, although the Tigers can put the ball in the air if they have to. In their semi-final win over Russell-Tyler-Ruthton, 44-16, they had 389 rushing yards and 136 passing yards. Quarterback Jack DeWulf rushed for 223 yards and passed for another 136 yards in the win over RTR.

Class A

In the Class A Prep Bowl championship, the Minneota Vikings took on the Wabasso Rabbits. Both teams were 13-0. In the final poll of the season, Wabasso was number one and Minneota was number six. Last year they were in the same section, with Wabasso getting the win and advancing to the state tournament. Minneota competes about equally well on the ground and in the air (60 percent-40 percent), while the Rabbits like to rush the ball, (80 percent-20 percent). Minneota is making its 13th appearance and has seven previous titles. Wabasso is at the “big dance” for the seventh time and has yet to win a state crown. Minneota beat Mayer Lutheran, 54-21, in the semi-finals, and Wabasso ended Ada-Borup/Norman County West’s season with a 21-13 win in the semi-finals.

Class AA

The two-time defending state champion from Caledonia was making its fourth consecutive and 13th overall appearance. The Warriors have eight state titles “notched” on their belts. Caledonia won championships in 1976, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2016. Caledonia (12-0) took on Pipestone Area (12-1), Friday, in the 2017 championship game.

An advance press release said, “Pipestone Area features a stellar passing game” and “Caledonia did not provide team or individual statistics.” We know what Caledonia likes to do on offense.

If the Minnesota State High School League described Pipestone Area’s passing game as stellar, I wonder how it would describe Owen King and the magic he can throw? King is one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the history of Minnesota football and could probably play that position at any number of top Division I football schools. Also, if he isn’t Mr. Football, I’m not sure my name is Bill Bentson.

Caledonia beat Paynesville Area, 49-16, in its semi-final game, leading 49-0 before the Bulldogs scored on the Warrior JVs. And by the way, Caledonia did have 194 rushing yards in that win.

Pipestone Area beat Moose Lake/Willow River, 28-6, in its semi-final match-up. Three of the four Arrow scores came in the air. That won’t happen against Caledonia. I predict the Warrior defensive backs will get at least three picks and one will be for six. Pipestone’s loss came to Redwood Valley, 29-14, during week five of the regular season. The Arrows avenged that loss, 20-17, in the Section 3 championship game.

The Warriors ended the season as the number-one ranked team in AA. Pipestone Area was number six in the final poll.

Ironic, or what? Nine-man, Class A and Class AA all had number-one teams taking on sixth-ranked teams in the championship games.

Other games

Of lesser importance to our area, but still part of the Prep Bowl line-up are St. Croix Lutheran (12-0) versus Pierz (12-0) for the championship in Class AAA. Neither had any trouble in the semi-final games. St. Croix Lutheran beat Pequot Lakes, 45-7, and Pierz out-gunned Jordan, 55-26.

In Class AAAA, Academy of Holy Angels (11-1) took on Cloquet (12-0) for all the marbles. Holy Angels (No. 8) upset Winona (No. 1), 26-22, in the semi-finals. Cloquet remained undefeated with a 40-21 win over South St. Paul.

In Class AAAAA, defending champion Elk River (11-1, No. 3) played Owatonna (11-1, No. 8). Elk River scored another 51 points, to go along with the 66 they scored in the quarterfinals, as they upended Apple Valley, 51-40. Owatonna also put up big numbers outscoring Brainerd, 56-28. Elk River rushed for 700 yards in their win as it didn’t throw one pass in the entire semi-final contest. Owatonna had 635 total yards in the win, 451 passing and 184 on the ground. I think this is going to be the most competitive of all the games.

Class AAAAAA: Eden Prairie (12-0) will take on Minnetonka (11-1) for the big boys championship. They went 1-2 in the final poll, with EP being number one. Game seven of the regular season, Eden Prairie downed Minnetonka, 39-21. The Eagles prefer to run, while the Skippers split their offense between the pass and the run. Eden Prairie has 10 previous titles and 21 trips to the state tournament. Minnetonka has one (2004) title and is making its fourth appearance at the big dance.

My picks are Spring Grove, Minneota, Caledonia, Pierz, Cloquet, Elk River and Eden Prairie.

That’s it for me. It’s going to be another busy week coming up with previews, pictures and stats.

Have a great week-one day at a time. Hey to the Great 8 and my wife, you are the GREATEST. Hasta luego everyone.

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving.