Posted On: 11/21/18 4:08 PM

(Cover Photo: Steve Kuchera/Duluth News Tribune)

 Spring GroveMountain Lake Area
Head CoachZach HauserTim Kirk
Final Rankings (NFN, AP, QRF) 1, 1, 15, 5, 3
State Championship Apparances12
State Titles1 ('17)0
Points Per Game4244.3
Opponents Points Per Game15.48.5
Opponents Win Pct72-61 (.541)69-56 (.552)

Spring Grove is back for more.

A year after winning their first state title in program history, the Lions have the opportunity to repeat when they take on Mountain Lake Area in the 9-Man championship.

The Lions are carrying a 27-game winning streak into the contest, trying to extend Section 1’s dominance at the smallest level of Minnesota high school football. A Spring Grove title would be the section’s sixth-straight, following Grand Meadow’s four-peat from 2013-2016.

Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley is the last champion from outside southeast Minnesota in 2012.

Mountain Lake Area is looking to end the streak and earn its first state championship. The Wolverines possess the No. 2 scoring defense in 9-Man, surrendering just 8.5 points per game with three shutouts. They’ve also held every opponent to 16 points or less, while Spring Grove has not scored less than 27 points this season.

Key Matchup
Mountain Lake Area Rush O vs Spring Grove Rush D

The Wolverines path to an upset begins with a productive running game. They must keep the ball away from the Spring Grove offense by controlling the clock and limiting possessions. Quarterback Abe Stoesz and running back Mace Herrig have both eclipsed 1,100 yards this fall, combining for 41 rushing touchdowns.

The Lions defense is led by a pair of juniors – linebacker Kyle Hagen and lineman Wyatt Murphy. Hagen leads the team with almost 130 tackles this season, while Murphy is the anchor of the defensive front. Both players, along with senior defensive end Ethan Matzke, will be counted on to slow down the Wolverines ground game.

Mountain Lake Area also has the advantage of roster depth, with 33 total players on the roster, compared to only 21 for the Lions. That makes getting a early lead and leaning on the running game even more important for MLA to try and wear out Spring Grove’s two-way players.

MLA’s Mace Herrig is the team’s second-leading rusher this season. (Renee Jones Schneider/Minneapolis StarTribune)

Key Player
Alex Folz, QB – Spring Grove
2018 Stats: 2,220 pass yards, 29 TD, 5 INT; 2,342 rush yards, 37 TD

Folz has started on varsity since eighth grade, including the past three seasons at quarterback. The 5-foot-10, 195-pound senior is in the midst of one of the most productive seasons in 9-Man history. He’s already amassed over 4,500 yards of total offense and 66 touchdowns in his senior season.

Folz’s only blemish on the sterling season was a turnover-filled performance in the state quarterfinals against Russell-Tyler-Ruthton – the Lions only common opponent with the Wolverines. Will he pass his final varsity test against a tough MLA defense and secure another championship?