Matt Schleich cuts behind blockers Blaine Storlie and Josh Olerud during 18-yard interception return against Grand Meadow.
Matt Schleich cuts behind blockers Blaine Storlie and Josh Olerud during 18-yard interception return against Grand Meadow.
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In a showdown between the last two unbeaten teams in the Southeast Conference (SEC), Spring Grove defeated visiting Grand Meadow 22-20 on Oct. 12.

Clinching a share of the SEC championship, the Lions, for the first time in program history, have won or shared three football titles in a row.

The nail-biting contest was ultimately decided by a second-quarter safety as both teams scored three touchdowns and kicked two extra points.

The Lions had no turnovers, while the Superlarks were able to survive an interception but were doomed by two fumbles deep in their own territory. In a defensive duel played out largely on the ground, the long gainers were nearly all pass plays.

Playing against the same six opponents, neither team had yet been held under 200 yards rushing. GM with its usual balanced attack saw Trenton Bleifus complete 13 of 21 passes, which accounted for two touchdowns and 157 of the Superlarks' 202 yards of total offense.

Spring Grove, with its usual run-first offense, made the most of only eight passes, gaining 110 yards through the air and 116 on the ground.

The shocker of the game was a reverse flea-flicker that went for a 31-yard Lion touchdown, the last of three lead changes. According to head coach Zach Hauser, the play had been in the playbook for six years but never used in a game until offensive coordinator Kevin Klug dialed it up in the third quarter with SG facing a fourth-and-15.

After making a quick pitch, QB Blaine Storlie got it back on a return pitch after an intervening handoff. Junior fullback Caleb Happel made the first reception of his varsity career - an astounding fingertip grab at full speed one step ahead of a GM defender in the end zone.

The play gave Spring Grove the lead for good, but the game was far from over.

The contest began with the Lions going three-and-out on the game's first possession, only to see GM drive 82 yards in 13 plays to take a 6-0 lead on a 12-yard quarterback keeper by Bleifus.

Spring Grove managed only one first down before punting again, but the Lion defense also forced a quick punt. The Lions then established what would be critical field position with a 38-yard drive to the GM 10-yard line.

The key play was a third-down 32-yard pass from Storlie to Matt Schleich, who took the ball away from a Superlark defender while running at full speed down the sideline.

The Larks held on fourth down but gave up a safety when Bleifus, back to pass and in the grasp of Brady Schuttemeier on the goal line, saw his attempted lateral hit the ground in the end zone. It came close to being a Lion TD, but Lark running back Landon Jacobson recovered for the safety.

After the ensuing kickoff, SG went three-and-out, but Schleich's 51-yard booming punt went to the GM eight. One play later, Storlie forced a fumble and Happel recovered on the 10.

It took four tough runs before Josh Olerud plowed in from the one, and Spring Grove led 9-6 just three and a half minutes before halftime.

GM came right back with a 35-yard kickoff return by Jacobson. A pass interference penalty then put the ball on the SG 27. A Bleifus 27-yard pass found Mike Ojulu in the end zone, and the Larks led 13-9 at halftime. It was only the second time all year that the Lions trailed at intermission.

Spring Grove would score on its first two possessions of the second half. The reverse flea-flicker capped a 51-yard, 8-play drive, followed by a Tanguy de Monval extra point kick. SG led 16-13.

After forcing a GM punt, Spring Grove consumed the clock with a 70-yard, 15-play touchdown march. The only two pass plays gained double-digit yardage - both to freshmen tight ends. Storlie threw 19 yards to Alex Engelhardt and 18 yards to Brady Schuttemeier. Olerud scored from the one. The 22-13 score made it a two-possession lead for the Lions.

Back to pass, Bleifus was clobbered by Brandon Schuttemeier, and his throw was intercepted downfield by Schleich. At that point, the Lion offense could not deliver the knockout blow and punted to the GM 21.

Bleifus then engineered a sparkling 79-yard drive, completing 7 of 9 consecutive passes. A 7-yard TD toss to Jacobson made it 22-20 with 3:03 left to play.

Mitchell Anderson fell on the onside kick, but Spring Grove would need at least one first down to run out the clock. On third-and-7, Storlie hit Engelhardt with a 10-yard pass with 2:15 remaining. Olerud then ran for 3, 4 and 4 yards for the final first down.

Spring Grove called only 10 pass plays. Storlie scrambled once, was sacked once (intentional grounding) and put it in the air eight times completing five to four different receivers. One (fourth down) completion went for a touchdown; the other four resulted in first downs.

The KFIL-Radio GM Player of the Game was Jacobson with 33 yards rushing, four receptions for 23 yards and a touchdown, 90 yards on four kick returns and many tackles.

Olerud was the SG Player of the Game with eight tackles including one sack and 85 yards on 34 carries for 2 touchdowns. Storlie, with 6 tackles (3 for losses) received the KFIL Game Ball Award.

Spring Grove came in ranked No. 3 in the state press poll, while both teams were tied at No. 7 in the computer poll.

Following the Oct. 7 final regular season games, SG is now expected to receive the top seed in the section tournament and thereby host all its tourney games.

Projected No. 2, GM hopes to return for another shot at the Lions if both are able advance through the first two rounds. Spring Grove plays at Mabel-Canton this week, on Wednesday, Oct. 17 (due to a teacher's inservice on Thursday and Friday) while the Superlarks take on Lyle/Pacelli.

The eight SEC teams make up the Section One 9-man tourney. The four quarterfinals will be played on Tuesday, Oct. 23 with the semi-finals on Saturday, Oct. 27. The championship finals are on Friday, Nov. 2. All kickoffs are at 7 p.m.



Southeast Conference

conf. season

FOOTBALL W L W L

Spring Grove* 6 - 0 7 - 0

Grand Meadow 5 - 1 6 - 1

Houston 4 - 2 4 - 3

Lanesboro 3 - 3 4 - 3

Mabel-Canton 3 - 3 3 - 4

LeRoy-Ostrander 1 - 5 2 - 5

Glenville-Emmons 1 - 5 1 - 6

Lyle/Pacelli 1 - 5 1 - 6

* defending champion