SG 14-00-06-20 = 40 MLA 06-00-00-12 = 18 Reigning state champion Spring Grove had its way on offense Friday morning, pulling away in the fourth quarter to defeat Mt. Lake Area 40-18 in the Class Nine-Man Prep Bowl, held at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
With the win, Spring Grove finished the season 14-0 with its second straight undefeated state championship season. MLA finishes the year with a 12-1 record.
The Lions were able to do something no team had done all year against the Wolverines, moving the ball on the ground. Senior quarterback Alex Folz rushed 30 times for 257 yards and scored four touchdowns, including three in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
SG received the opening kickoff and methodically moved down the field, capping a nine-play, 68-yard drive with a 7-yard touchdown run by Folz. Folz added the extra-point kick, giving SG a quick 7-0 lead.
MLA fumbled the ball away on its second play from scrimmage, but quickly got the ball back on an interception by Zach Spinks. That set up a 52-yard touchdown dash by Wolverine quarterback Abraham Stoesz. The two-point conversion failed, leaving SG with a 7-6 lead.
On the ensuing drive, the Wolverine defense forced SG into a punting situation, but the Lions converted a fake punt on a run by Folz. Moments later, running back Tyler Kersten took an option pitch and scored on a 58-yard run. The extra-point kick gave SG a 14-6 lead.
MLA was forced to punt on its next possession, but the Wolverine defense made a big play when Stoesz stepped in front of a Folz pass, returning the interception inside the Lions' 10-yard line.
The Wolverines were able to move down to the 4-yard line. On fourth-and-goal from the 4, MLA attempted a halfback pass. Mace Herrig threw across the field to Stoesz, who was pushed out of bounds at the 2-yard line, turning the ball over on downs.
After MLA forced a punt, it was the SG defense making another crucial play, stripping the ball from Herrig as the Wolverines were driving into Lion territory. But MLA's defense made its third big play of the first half moments later when Drake Harder intercepted a Folz pass, giving the Wolverines the ball at their own 27 late in the half.
MLA moved into SG territory and appeared to score the equalizing touchdown when Stoesz hit Sam Paulson down the sideline for a 47-yard touchdown. However, video replay that is used for games at US Bank Stadium overturned the touchdown call. Paulson had gone out of bounds before catching the ball, but replay was unable to determine if he had been pushed out of bounds or if he went out on his own. Had Paulson been pushed out, he would have been able to re-establish position inbounds to make the catch. Instead, because he had been out of bounds, the touchdown was overturned and the Wolverines were assessed a 15-yard penalty for illegal participation, effectively ending the drive and the half.
MLA got the ball to start the second half and marched into SG territory, but the SG defense forced negative yardage on back-to-back plays and the Wolverines threw an incomplete pass on fourth down, turning the ball over on downs.
SG took over, marching 66 yards in 13 plays and chewing up nearly six minutes of clock. The Lions converted a trio of third downs, including on third-and-goal when Kersten scored on a 2-yard run. The two-point conversion failed, leaving SG with a 20-6 lead.
MLA took the ensuing kickoff and moved quickly into Lion territory. But early in the fourth quarter, a Stoesz pass was intercepted by Kai Bjerke at the SG 7-yard line. It was the first interception thrown by Stoesz all season.
Moments later, Folz raced up the middle for an 88-yard touchdown, giving the Lions a 26-6 lead.
On MLA's next possession, a Stoesz pass was intercepted by Noah Elton, who returned the ball to the Wolverine 7-yard line. Folz scored on a 4-yard run two plays later, giving SG a 32-6 lead.
The Wolverines tried to battle back, marching downfield in a hurry-up offense. Stoesz completed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Harder, cutting the SG lead to 32-12 after the failed two-point conversion.
MLA's defense forced a Lion punt moments later, with the Wolverines cashing in on another hurry-up drive when Stoesz dashed through the defense for a 51-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion failed, making the score 32-18.
But with just over a minute on the clock, Folz put an exclamation point on the Lions' victory, racing 50 yards for a touchdown. The two-point conversion gave SG the 40-18 victory.
Stoesz finished the game with 21 carries for 241 yards. Harder added 44 yards rushing on 10 carries and Herrig rushed eight times for 33 yards.
Stoesz completed 12-of-27 passes for 68 yards. Harder had six catches for 19 yards.