GRAND MEADOW — Spring Grove and Grand Meadow have been rivals for more than a decade.
Throughout the 2010s, whichever team won the regular-season matchup was likely going to be the conference champion. Whichever team won in the playoffs was going to head to state and likely become the champion.
That's just the way it was for most of the decade.
Grand Meadow is itching to prove that it is one of the state's elite 9-Man teams again. The Superlarks made a statement Friday night against their bitter rivals as Dustin Copley exploded for a 67-yard touchdown run on Grand Meadow's first offensive play. He rumbled for 152 rushing yards and three touchdowns to go along with two catches for 22 yards in a 40-6 romp over Spring Grove.
The statement to the rest of Minnesota has been made. Grand Meadow is back in business.
"We have a lot of tradition with Spring Grove," legendary Grand Meadow coach Gary Sloan said. "We have a great rivalry with them. It’s a program that we have a ton of respect for because of that history. I think we were really dialed in tonight."
The Superlarks finished with 397 yards of total offense. They jumped out to a 13-0 lead heading to the fourth quarter and cruised the entire way.
The defense held Spring Grove to just 85 total rushing yards and they forced three Lions fumbles with bone-crushing hits.
"It was a lot of fun," Sloan said. "These guys are veterans. Six of them have been starting since they were sophomores. We’ve spent so much time together. They’re a neat bunch. They’re great kids. Good students. They’re good leaders. It’s just a fun group to coach."
Senior quarterback Evan Oehlke shook off an interception in the first quarter and put together a whale of a game. Oehlke rushed for 57 yards and a touchdown. He added a four-yard touchdown strike to Blake Ludemann with 23 seconds left in the first quarter to give the Superlarks a 13-0 lead.
Copley was terrific on the ground but veteran Daniel Smith was a wrecking ball, too. Smith rumbled for 68 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown plunge.
"We’re trying to throw the ball more but we’re still going to run the ball," Sloan said. "I’m very happy with it. The strength of this team is our balance. We have so many guys who can carry the load. It’s not just one guy."
Grand Meadow led 19-0 at the half but it didn't let Spring Grove get an ounce of momentum. After a long return gave the Superlarks offense great field position, Copley took the first carry of the second half 25 yards for a touchdown.
That took the air right out of Spring Grove's sideline.
"I always tell the kids the first few minutes of the first quarter and first few minutes of the third quarter are always so important to establish momentum for the first half and the second half," Sloan said. "We were just able to get off to a really good start."
Spring Grove's senior quarterback Isaac Griffin was under duress all night long. He managed to rack up 53 rushing yards and 63 passing yards. He connected with Tysen Grinde late in the fourth quarter on a 28-yard touchdown strike.
Spring Grove (1-1) will head back to the drawing board. Meanwhile, Grand Meadow will prepare for a date with Leroy-Ostrander next week. The Cardinals knocked off Grand Meadow last season. The Superlarks are itching for a chance to punch back.
"That’s going to be a big game," Sloan said. "We do have a good rivalry with them. They came to our place last year and beat us. Close game but they made a few plays late to pull it off. We have to have a great week of practice and try to get down there and do the best we can. We talk a lot about this shortened season and how we might not even have a game. So we’ve just stressed that you have to come out ready to go each and every night."
Grand Meadow was ready to rock and roll from the opening whistle on Friday night. The Superlarks are back. The freight train is rolling, yet again.
GRAND MEADOW 40, SPRING GROVE 6
Spring Grove 0 0 0 6 — 6
Grand Meadow 13 6 15 6 — 40
GM — Dustin Copley 67 yard run (Evan Oehlke kick), 10:12
GM — Blake Ludemann 4 yard pass from Evan Oehlke (kick blocked), 0:23
GM — Daniel Smith 1 yard run (kick no good), 2:59
GM — Dustin Copley 25 yard run (Daniel Smith conversion), 11:43
GM — Evan Oehlke 5 yard run (Oehlke kick), 2:10
GM — Dustin Copley 10 yard run (kick no good), 9:20
SG — Tysen Grinde 28 yard pass from Caleb Griffin (failed conversion), 7:25
Total net yards: 148 397
Rushing yards: 85 352
Passing yards: 63 45
Penalties: 2-30 5-40
Grand Meadow — Dustin Copley 15-152 yards, 3 TDs; Daniel Smith 11-68, 1 TD; Evan Oehlke, 12-57 yards, 1 TD; Taylor Glynn, 4-36; Luke Speer, 3-15; Jacob Kerrins: 2-4; Connor Munson, 1-20; Cam Nesbitt, 1-1; Isaac Harmening: 1-(minus 1) Spring Grove — Isaac Griffin 10-53; Hunter Holland 3-10; Reid Bjerke 1-27; Caden Grinde 2- (minus 5)
Grand Meadow — Evan Oehlke 4-6, 24 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; Taylor Glynn 1-1, 21 yards. Spring Grove — Isaac Griffin 8-18, 63 yards, 1 TD
Grand Meadow — Blake Ludemann 1-4, 1 TD; Dustin Copley 2-22; Taylor Glynn 1-8; Luke Speer 1-21 Spring Grove — Reid Bjerke: 1-11; Hunter Holland: 2-8; Caden Grinde: 2-11; Tysen Grinde: 2-26, 1 TD; Caleb Griffin 1-7