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High School Football Focus: La Crescent-Hokah among the early surprises in southeastern Minnesota

La Crescent-Hokah moved to 2-1 on Friday with its second consecutive victory. Another win this coming week and the formerly moribund Lancers are likely to sneak into our Top 10 Power Rankings.

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Rochester Lourdes running back Caleb Akinbolu carries the ball during a game against St. Charles on Sept. 9, 2022. The freshman ran for 75 yards and a touchdown in a 34-0 win against Pine Island on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022, at Rochester Regional Stadium. Lourdes checks in at No. 10 in our southeastern Minnesota Power Rankings this week.
Dan Borgeson / contributed file photo
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We haven't landed La Crescent-Hokah in our top-10 Power Rankings, but it's getting close.

And who would have thought it? The Lancers, who had a 21-game losing streak heading into this season, are now 2-1 under new coach and former long-time Kasson-Mantorville assistant Terry Donovan.

Also Read
Mankato West defeated Century 49-0 on Saturday in Big Southeast District play.
Rees Grimsrud threw four touchdown passes and the Spartans started fast to ensure there would be no letdown ahead of the Mankato West matchup.

The Lancers' progress is one of the many interesting developments worth paying attention to this season in southeastern Minnesota football.

A few more: Caledonia is back, rolling once again at 3-0 after an aberration season a year ago; nobody can stop Chatfield runner Sam Backer (25 yards per carry on Friday); Mayo is a force for the second straight year; and Lourdes looks dangerous again after a couple-of-years dip.

Let's dig into what happened Friday and Saturday, and what's coming next.

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Week 3’s Top Performers

1. Logan Dittrich, Plainview-Elgin-Millville

The Bulldogs’ inside linebacker was a one-man wrecking crew defensively in P-E-M’s 34-6 win over Triton. Dittrich had 10 combined tackles, three of them for loss, including a sack. A 5-foot-11, 152-pound sophomore, Dittrich also forced and recovered one of Triton’s three fumbles.

2. Sam Backer, Chatfield

Backer is indeed a mainstay in our Top Performers list. No leaving him out this week after what he did against St. Charles in extremely limited duty. Backer carried the ball just eight times but still managed 201 yards rushing. That’s 25 yards a pop.

3. Rees Grimsrud, Mayo

Grimsrud seems to get better every week. A 6-foot-1, 170-pound junior and first-year starter at quarterback, he was a wonderfully efficient 13-for-18 passing for 222 yards and four touchdowns in a 49-18 win over Century. That included scoring strikes of 56, 38 and 37 yards. Grimsrud is the youngest son of former Rushford-Peterson all-around athletic great Dana Grimsrud.

4. Noah Bjerke-Wieser, La Crescent-Hokah

The Lancers have come to life this season and on Friday night, Bjerke-Wieser was a huge part of it. The 6-foot, 160-pound senior receiver caught touchdown passes of 5, 43 and 18 yards and also did plenty when he was handed the ball, finishing with 123 yards rushing in La Crescent-Hokah’s 28-7 win over Lake City. The Lancers are 2-1.

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5. Elijah Solum, Spring Grove

Solum wasn’t extremely accurate with his passes, completing just six of 15 attempts in a 56-14 win over Mabel-Canton. But he sure made those six count. The 6-1, 190-pound junior finished with 235 yards passing with three touchdowns. He also bothered Mabel-Canton with his legs, rushing for 135 yards and two touchdowns on just six carries.

Week 3 Power Rankings

(Editor's note: These rankings are considered "pound-for-pound" rankings, similar to many rankings systems in boxing and mixed martial arts. They represent the best teams in southeastern Minnesota, relative to the class they play in.)

1. Chatfield (3-0)

The Gophers are giving no indications that they are the wrong choice to be perched atop our Power Rankings for the third straight week. Chatfield has the best runner around, Sam Backer, and his linemen are giving him plenty of room to show off those skills. In Friday’s 69-0 win over St. Charles, Backer averaged 25 yards per carry, getting 201 yards on just eight attempts.

Mayo, Century football
Mayo's Ethan Kramer (56) celebrates with Carter Holcomb (11) after Holcomb's touchdown in the second half on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022 at Century High School.
Alex VandenHouten / Post Bulletin

2. Mayo (3-0)

Mayo’s offense was a juggernaut last year, boasting three of the top players in southeastern Minnesota: Since-graduated receiver Cayden Holcomb, running back Noah Smith and quarterback Bennett Ellsworth. One year later, led by quarterback Rees Grimsrud, receiver Carter Holcomb (a returning star from last year), running back Rudy Lozoya and a dominant offensive line, the Spartans are scoring in droves again, averaging nearly 40 points per game.

3. Cannon Falls (3-0)

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The Bombers simply run teams into submission. They did it again Saturday, piling up 461 yards on the ground and averaging nearly 10 yards per carry. Cannon Falls is ranked No. 1 in Class AAA. That makes sense.

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Stewartville’s Henry Tschetter (1) carries the ball as Kasson-Mantorville’s Spencer Anderson (82) defends during a football game Friday, Oct. 8, 2021, in Stewartville. Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

4. Stewartville (3-0)

There was the thought that the Tigers' initial competition hadn't been strong enough to anoint them as truly special, even though they'd outscored Mankato East and Albert Lea by a combined 120-10. Then Stewartville went out and clubbed what was believed to be a solid Faribault team 48-0 on Saturday. The Tigers are good. Really, really good.

5. Caledonia (3-0)

After two weeks of offensive explosions the No. 3-ranked Warriors weren’t quite as lethal on Friday, beating Dover-Eyota 21-0, one of Caledonia’s touchdowns coming on an interception. Still, the No. 6-ranked Warriors are off to a great start. Their defense has been unyielding. Caledonia has allowed just six points in three games, though all against losing teams.

6. Fillmore Central (3-0)

No. 7-ranked Fillmore Central did some proving two games ago when it beat rival and fellow perennial power Rushford-Peterson 33-13. It backed that up with a 50-7 shellacking of Hayfield on Friday. The Falcons’ defense has been great, allowing just seven points per game.

7. Spring Grove (3-0)

The Lions have one of their best teams in years. Ranked sixth in Nine-Man, Spring Grove can really, really score. It has put up 60, 48 and 56 points in its first three games. Eli Solum is a beast of a quarterback at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds.

8. Plainview-Elgin-Millville (2-1)

Ranked No. 6 in Class AAA, the Bulldogs made that status look even more logical after it beat a solid Triton team 34-6 on Friday. P-E-M can win in a lot of ways. Against Triton, it was its defense and special teams that stood out, turning the Cobras over three times and allowing them just 180 total yards of offense.

9. Lanesboro (3-0)

The Burros aren’t a fast team. Lanesboro coach James Semmen says last year’s team was much speedier. But this group is still great and has earned a state ranking of No. 2 in Nine-Man. Lanesboro averages nearly 40 points per game and has an impressive opening-game win over Grand Meadow under its belt.

10. Lourdes (2-1)

Look out for the Eagles. Almost always formidable under 18th-year head coach Mike Kesler, Lourdes put together its most impressive performance this season on Friday, dismantling Pine Island 34-0. Lourdes has won 150 games in Kesler’s 18 seasons as head coach, a rare feat.

Week 4 Games to Watch

Byron at Stewartville (7 p.m. Friday)

This is must-see stuff. Stewartville is 3-0 and ranked No. 3 in Class AAAA, Byron is 2-1 and ranked fourth in AAAA. As if that wasn’t enough, Byron eliminated a then-undefeated Tigers team from last year’s playoffs with a stunning late comeback and ultimately an overtime win.

Lourdes at La Crescent-Hokah (7 p.m. Friday)

These aren’t among the area’s very best teams but they’re both 2-1 and figure to be an interesting matchup. La Crescent-Hokah has something going this year after going 21 straight games without a win. Terry Donovan is the Lancers' new head coach after spending years as the Kasson-Mantorville offensive coordinator. At Lourdes, the coach is Mike Kesler. Hard to find a better head man than him.

Spring Grove at Grand Meadow (1 p.m. Saturday)

The No. 6-ranked Lions are having one of their best seasons in years, rolling in at 3-0 and having outscored their opponents by a combined 164-64. Grand Meadow — as consistently great a Nine Man program as there’s been in the state the last 10 years — offers a fine test. The Superlarks come in winners of their last two games and having played stellar defense.

Related Topics: FOOTBALLLA CRESCENT-HOKAH
Pat has been a Post Bulletin sports reporter since 1994. He covers Rochester John Marshall football, as well as a variety of other southeastern Minnesota football teams. Among my other southeastern Minnesota high school beats are girls basketball, boys and girls tennis, boys and girls track and field, high school and American Legion baseball, volleyball, University of Minnesota sports (on occasion) and the Timberwolves (on occasion). Readers can reach Pat at 507-285-7723 or pruff@postbulletin.com.
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