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Pigskin '21: Section 1, 9-Man Preview: A likely ‘big four’ of area contenders in Nine Man

The Burros ended last year 7-1 and finished things with a 16-12 win over fellow power Grand Meadow in the section final.

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Grand MeadowÕs Taylor Glynn (31) goes in for a touchdown during a football game against Southland on Saturday, October 31, 2020, at Grand Meadow High School in Grand Meadow. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)
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GRAND MEADOW

Grand Meadow doesn’t consider itself the favorite in Section One, but the Superlarks are certainly one of the favorites. Senior tailback Dustin Copley is a game changer who is capable of taking breaking a big run any time he touches the football. Fellow captains Taylor Glynn, Riley Paul and Carter Mueller will also be major pieces this season. Glynn was a talented wideout/defensive back last season but he’s shifting to quarterback where he can use his speed to be a nightmare for opposing defenses. Legendary head coach Gary Sloan is also high on Connor Munson, Jacob Kerrins, Jace Kraft, Jason Gehling and Cael Gilbert. Plus, Corbin Ludemann is a rising star who will be used all over the field. Grand Meadow made it all the way to the Section 1 9-man title game last year but nearly a dozen starters were forced to sit out due to COVID protocols last season. The Superlarks have been itching to get another shot and they’ve got championship DNA.

LANESBORO

The Burros ended last year 7-1 and finished things with a 16-12 win over fellow power Grand Meadow in the section final. Lanesboro has the kind of talent for another banner season, with unusual size and depth. The Burros have 40 players out for football, grades 9-12. That includes some stars such as running back/linebacker JT Rein, quarterback/safety Seth Semmen and nose tackle Clay Schwichtenberg. Rein (5-11, 180-pound senior) rushd for more than 1,000 yards last year. Semmen (6-2, 202-pound senior) rushed for 450 yards, passed for 400 and is a two-time all-conference safety. Schwichtenberg (5-10, 270, senior) is a fierce player inside with athleticism. The Burros have great size, too, including athletic 6-1, 250-pound junior Cooper Ferrie, a guy with loads of potential, as well as 6-foot, 270-pound senior right tackle Trevor Ruen.

LEROY-OSTRANDER

The Cardinals have the most lethal offensive player in the section, dual-threat quarterback Chase Johnson. What the senior lacks in height (5-feet-6) he more than makes up in everything else. He’s added 20 pounds of muscle, bringing him up to 165. Johnson, who bench presses an impressive 300 pounds, threw for 1,000 yards last season and also ran for 1,000. That helped the 5-2 Cardinals average 34 points per game. L-O has other offensive weapons, too, in junior running back Peyton Roe and rugged Memphiz Gomez, also a middle linebacker. Up front, L-O has 6-3, 240-pound Tanner Olson, who has committed to attend Division II Minnesota State, Mankato. The Cardinals return all of their starting linemen from a year ago. On that list is Gavin Sweeney, a 6-4, 215-pounder senior who’ll line up at tight end and is being recruited by Division II colleges.

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SOUTHLAND

The Rebels might have the best player in the section, running back/linebacker Brendan Kennedy, son of coach Shawn Kennedy. The 5-9, 195-pound senior is one of the strongest players ever at Southland, able to bench press 275 pounds and squats 450. Kennedy was the District 9-South, East Division Defensive Player of the Year after 60 tackles in 4 1/2 games. Christian Luthe (6-1, 260) bench presses 365 pounds and squats 580. The senior is the team’s top lineman. Southland has one of the league’s most elusive players in senior Harrison Hanna, a 6-1, 150-pound senior who’ll play quarterback, receiver and defensive back. Eli Wolff is another athletic player who goes 6-2, 175. The senior will play receiver and defensive back. Southland has a wicked start to this season. It travels to play at LeRoy-Ostrander in Week 1, then hosts Lanesboro in Week 2.

SPRING GROVE

The strength of the Lions is their skill and speed. That group is led by seniors Carson Gerard (tight end/defensive end 6-4, 190), receiver/linebacker Reid Bjerke (6-2, 185), receiver/defensive back Tyson Grinde (6-3, 170), running back Hunter Holland (5-9, 170) and sophomore quarterback Elijah Solum (6-1, 185). The Lions have an excellent center in Ty Cleven (5-11, 220) who will anchor both sides of the line. The challenge now is finding a supporting cast for him up front. Spring Grove coach Kody Moore is pleased with his team’s numbers, with 30 players out. That is up from closer to 20 in recent seasons. Spring Grove finished 5-3 last year, the losses to Grand Meadow, Lanesboro and LeRoy-Ostrander.

HOUSTON

The Hurricanes were hit hard by graduation a year ago when they finished 2-5. They’re led by a pack of seniors, including Isaac Heyer, who is back at quarterback. The 6-foot, 180-pound senior is the team’s top runner and passer and averaged about 100 yards rushing per game last year. Caden Ness is a 5-9, 180-pound senior running back who has a physical style. Houston returns a pair of starters on the offensive line, seniors Austin Fishel (5-10, 195) and Tanner Kubitz (6-2, 185). Kubitz will be a blocking tight end who can also catch some passes. Ethan Hargrove is a top prospect at receiver, as an athletic senior. All of those players will play both ways. Aydan Florin is the Hurricanes’ top defensive back and is also a senior.

MABEL-CANTON

Karl Urbaniak is back for his 36th season as the Cougars’ coach. He likes the look of this group, with its coachability and willingness to work. M-C was 2-5 last year and graduated one of the top players in southeastern Minnesota, defensive end/fullback Gavin Johnson. The Cougars return some solid players, led by sophomore running back Cayden Tollefsrud, an all-around athletic star who is 5-10, 165 pounds. Tollefsrud has good speed and quickness, and is aggressive. M-C’s quarterback is Jordan Larson, a 6-0, 165-pound junior with a keen understanding of the offense. Top linemen are brothers Alex and James Arneson, who both go around 6-1, 200 pounds. Senior Jameson Tollefsrud is a 6-1, 160-pound senior defensive back with skill, and Owen Underbakke a tough 5-10, 190-pound senior two-way lineman.

LYLE/PACELLI

The Athletics showed improvement last year, going 2-4 and averaging 27 points per game. Size up front won’t be a problem for L/P. The Athletics are big, led by 6-6, 280-pound junior Nathan Schmidt. Schmidt isn’t just large, he can also move. L/P also has sturdy returning linemen David Christensen (6-0, 200) and Dylan Regenscheid (6-2, 210). Both are juniors. Trey Anderson gives the Athletics a hard-nosed player. The 5-10, 175-pound junior rushed for about 600 yards last year and is a physical runner. He also leads the defense at linebacker. Lyle/Pacelli has a new quarterback as junior Jake Truckenmiller (6-1, 180) takes over. He’s an athletic player who also understands the Athletics’ offensive system.

SECTION 1 9-MAN SCHEDULE

Sept. 3 — Grand Meadow at Lanesboro; Spring Grove at Houston; Mabel-Canton at Lyle/Pacelli; Southland at LeRoy-Ostrander.

Sept. 10 — Lanesboro at Southland; LeRoy-Ostrander at Mabel-Canton; Houston at Kingsland.

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Sept. 11 — Heron Lake-Okabena-Fulda at Grand Meadow; Lyle/Pacelli at Spring Grove.

Sept. 17 — Houston at Grand Meadow; Spring Grove at Mabel-Canton; Kingsland at Southland; Lyle/Pacelli at Cedar Mountain/Comfrey.

Sept. 18 — LeRoy-Ostrander at Lanesboro.

Sept. 24 — Grand Meadow at Spring Grove; Lanesboro at Houston; Mabel-Canton at Kingsland; Southland at Lyle/Pacelli; Mountain Lake at LeRoy-Ostrander.

Oct. 1 — LeRoy-Ostrander at Grand Meadow; Lanesboro at Kingsland; Southland at Spring Grove; Mabel-Canton at Madelia; Lyle/Pacelli at Houston.

Oct. 8 — Grand Meadow at Southland; Nicollet at Lanesboro; Spring Grove at LeRoy-Ostrander; Houston at Mabel-Canton; Kingsland at Lyle/Pacelli.

Oct. 15 — Lyle/Pacelli at Grand Meadow; Lanesboro at Mabel-Canton; Kingsland at Spring Grove; Houston at LeRoy-Ostrander; Southland at Sleepy Eye/St. Mary’s.

Oct. 20 — Grand Meadow at Kingsland; Spring Grove at Lanesboro; Mabel-Canton at Southland; Granada Huntley East Chain at Houston; LeRoy-Ostrander at Lyle/Pacelli.

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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