Lion quarterback Keenan Siminski faces Grand Meadow pass rush from Isaac Tangen. Blocking at right are Nick Holty (#72) and Brady Schuttemeier (#51).
Lion quarterback Keenan Siminski faces Grand Meadow pass rush from Isaac Tangen. Blocking at right are Nick Holty (#72) and Brady Schuttemeier (#51).
For a second straight season, Spring Grove's gridiron gang was denied a trip to the state tournament by a dominating performance from Grand Meadow in the Nov. 1 section championship game at RCTC.

The third-seeded Superlarks defeated the Lions 31-14, taking advantage of two early kicking-game breakdowns by No. 1 seed SG. Grand Meadow led 31-0 at halftime with all four Lion turnovers coming before the break.

GM only out-gained the Lions by 36 total yards, but won the turnover battle 4 to 2 and started 4 of their 9 possessions in SG territory.

Spring Grove did not score until the fourth quarter with impressive, but far too late 75 and 85-yard drives.

The game began reasonably well for SG, recording 2 first downs after taking the opening kickoff. But before the Lions would move the chains again, they would trail 18-0.

The first GM possession used 15 plays to march 80 yards for a 6-0 lead.

SG fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and the Larks took over at the Lion 27. SG held on downs, but field position also held. After trading punts, GM drove 45 yards in 8 plays to make it 12-0.

The next kickoff gave SG poor field position. The Lions recovered a muff but began on their own 9. After a punt and 27-yard return by Landon Jacobson, the ball was right back on the 9.

GM then scored in 2 plays. Four plays later, Blake Olson returned a Lion fumble 52 yards for a touchdown, and the score was 25-0.

Three plays later, Trenton Bleifus intercepted a Lion pass, and on the next play, hit Cody Ojulu with a 43-yard pass of his own down to the SG 3.

Jacobson carried 2 yards for his third TD, and GM was up 31-0 less than a minute before halftime.

After a 15-yard GM penalty, Keenan Siminski made good use of those fading seconds, completing 3 straight passes down to the GM 19.

Then a bizarre turnover trade transpired on the final play of the half when Ojulu intercepted a SG pass on the goal line and Alex Engelhardt forced him to fumble on the 14.

Dustin Vickerman scooped up the ball and almost scored before Bleifus tackled him just one yard short of the goal line with the halftime clock all zeroes.

It was the first time in four years SG had gone into halftime scoreless. The foes on that date were also the Superlarks.

With the GM starting defense playing to the end, the Lions finally put together two long scoring drives in the second half. Siminski hit 9 of 13 passes to set up a pair of short TD runs - the first by Caleb Happel for 1 yard and the second by Matt Schleich from the 2.

The Superlarks then recovered the onside kick and marched methodically downfield before taking a knee on the Lion 4 yard-line as time expired.

Facing the greatest deficit of the season, Siminski went to the air 23 times, completing 12. Those were both season-high numbers and included 2 interceptions and 3 sacks. The result was 117 aerial yards along with a season-low 105 rushing yards.

The Larks were determined not to give up a deep pass as they had when the teams met during the regular season, but SG had some success with shorter pass routes. Vickerman snared 4 passes for 54 yards. Engelhardt gained 32 yards on 5 receptions.

Tough defenses made big-yardage plays a rarity. The 43-yard pass and a 21-yard run were the longest gainers for GM. The Lions' longest pass covered 18 yards while the longest run went for 14.

After 23 pass attempts in the regular-season game, Bleifus went to the air only 4 times, completing 2 for 53 yards and suffering 2 sacks (by Siminski and Harrison Speltz).

Playing with the lead, the Larks were content to keep the ball on the ground (for 205 yards). Jacobson was the workhorse with 34 carries for 166 yards, including TD runs of 13, 4 and 3 yards. Bleifus also had an 11-yard scoring run.

On defense, Jacobson had 15 tackles along with 13 stops from both Michael Stejskal and Jordan Miland.

SG averaged only 3 yards per run. Happel led the Lions with a season-low 66 yards on 19 carries.

Happel had 13 tackles and Schleich 12 for the defense. Siminski blocked an extra-point kick and recorded a sack among his 9 tackles.

Along with his fumble return, Vickerman also had 9 stops as did Engelhardt, who forced one fumble and recovered another.

Brady Schuttemeier posted 8 tackles while also forcing a fumble. Nick Holty was in on 8 stops including one for loss.

State-ranked at No. 9, Spring Grove closed the season at 9-2 with a share of a fourth straight conference championship.

Conference co-champ and the reigning state runner-up GM improved to 10-1 and moved on to this week's state tournament quarterfinals against undefeated and state-ranked No. 4 Mountain Lake Area. The Wolverines' last loss came versus GM in last year's state quarterfinal.

Lion Individuals

RUSHING (35-115): Caleb Happel 19-66, TD; Alex Engelhardt 4-20; Matt Schleich 3-19, TD, PAT; Dustin Vickerman 1-4; Keenan Siminski 8-(-4). PASSING: Keenan Siminski 12-23-2 (117 yds.). RECEIVING: Dustin Vickerman 4-54, Alex Engelhardt 5-32, Brady Schuttemeier 2-22, Matt Schleich 1-9. TACKLES: Caleb Happel 13 (4 solo+9 assists), Matt Schleich 12 (5+7), Keenan Siminski 9 (3+6), Dustin Vickerman 9 (2+7), Alex Engelhardt 9 (2+7), Brady Schuttemeier 8 (3+5), Nick Holty 8 (3+5), Damon Cody 5 (2+3), Harrison Speltz 5 (2+3), Dylan Kampschroer 1 (1+0), Jordan Jaster 1 (0+1). PUNTING: Matt Schleich 4-132 (33.0 avg.)

Not so close

This was the third straight season (fourth overall) in which SG and GM have met in the 9-man section finals. In past 11 years, the Superlarks have appeared in the section title game 6 times and the Lions 4.

The 9-man championship game has been close only once in those 11 seasons. (In 2004, L-O won by 10 points after returning on onside kickoff for a TD in the final moments.)

Championship games - Section One, 9-man football

2013 Grand Meadow 31, Spring Grove 14

2012 Grand Meadow 25, SG 6 (GM state runner-up)

2011 Spring Grove 28, Grand Meadow 0

2010 Lanesboro 52, Glenville-Emmons 8 (LHS state runner-up)

2009 Grand Meadow 35, Houston 7

2008 Houston 45, Lanesboro 8 (Houston state champ)

2007 Houston 26, Mabel-Canton 7

2006 Lanesboro 52, Grand Meadow 6

2005 Lanesboro 30, Grand Meadow 13

2004 LeRoy-Ostrander 28, Spring Grove 18

2003 Spring Grove 40, Grand Meadow 20

2003 was first year that SG, Houston and Lanesboro switched to 9-man football with M-C soon to follow.

Section One 9-Man Football 2013 Quarterfinals

#1 SG by forfeit over #8 G-E

#5 Houston 27, #4 M-C 18

#3 GM 47, #6 LeRoy-Ostr. 14

#2 Lanesboro 60, #7 L/P 34


Spring Grove 56, Houston 6

Gr. Meadow 35, Lanesboro 6

Finals - Grand Meadow 31, SG 14