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Fertile-Beltrami denied the chance to reach its second-straight attempt to reach Minn. 9-man title game

Spring Grove takes 27-6 win over Falcos

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Spring Grove's Caleb Griffen (3) tries to pull down Fertile-Beltrami's Caiden Swenby (8) on a fake punt run during a 9-Man state semifinal football game Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Andrew Link / Post Bulletin
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MINNEAPOLIS — Two more weeks of practice. Two more weeks of hanging out with friends and teammates. And one more big game of football.

That’s what both Spring Grove and Fertile-Beltrami were hoping for on Thursday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

But it was Spring Grove that assured themselves of the extra time after the Lions toppled Fertile-Beltrami 27-6 in the 9-Man football state semifinals on Thursday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The Lions (12-0), the third-ranked team in the state, overcame an early 6-0 deficit to score the final 27 points. Junior quarterback Elijah Solum rushed for three touchdowns while senior Tysen Grinde had a 76-yard punt return for a touchdown and added a big interception in the fourth quarter to set up the Lions' final touchdown.

Fertile-Beltrami, which played in last season’s 9-man title game at U.S. Bank Stadium, ended its season at 11-1.

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Grinde’s interception sealed the deal for Spring Grove.

"That was one of my big motivators going into this game — to get the win — as I wanted to keep playing football with my friends, my brothers," Grinde said.

The Lions will get that opportunity as they return to the Prep Bowl for the third time in school history. Most of this year's varsity players were in middle school when Spring Grove won back-to-back state titles in 2017 and '18 under coach Zach Hauser. Current Lions head coach Kody Moore was the offensive coordinator of those teams.

“It comes down to (the) offseason program,” Moore said of winning at the state level. “Zach, he did a really nice job of getting that in place, the strength and speed. I think anytime you have guys who put so much time in, they’re so bought in, that’s the thing that makes a successful program.”

Spring Grove has been a stellar offensive team all season, but the defense has also been exceptional. The strength of the defense was on full display on Thursday.

Second-ranked Fertile-Beltrami (11-1) scored a touchdown on its first drive of the game, a 19-yard pass from Caiden Swenby to Ryan Van Den Einde. But the Falcons, who entered averaging more than 44 points per contest, were shutout the rest of the way.

“Our defense did a nice job keeping a dynamic offense off the board,” Moore said.

Spring Grove counted the Falcons' TD with two quick scores of its own before the first quarter ended.

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The Lions wanted to keep Fertile-Beltrami’s speedy running back Isaiah Wright in check and they did for just about the entire game. The sophomore running back had a modest 58 yards rushing on 17 carries. Spring Grove limited the Falcons to 146 yards rushing on 45 attempts.

“We knew this team was run-heavy so we were going to have to do a good job of that,” Moore said. “This year in general, I’d say that’s the biggest thing that we’ve improved upon.”

Spring Grove advances to the state championship game against Mountain Buhl-Iron at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3, at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Related Topics: PREP SPORTS
Guy N. Limbeck is a Rochester native who has been working at a daily newspaper since 1981. He has worked at the Post Bulletin since 1999. Readers can reach Guy at 507-285-7724 or glimbeck@postbulletin.com.
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