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Spring Grove set for strong start at U.S. Bank Stadium

Third-ranked Spring Grove will face No. 2 Fertile-Beltrami in a battle of unbeaten teams in the 9-Man football state semifinals today. The contest will be held at U.S. Bank Stadium, the home of the Vikings.

Spring Grove, Lanesboro Section 1 9-Man football championship
Spring Grove’s Elijah Solum (2), Jaxon Strinmoen (7) and Hunter Holland (22) celebrate a touchdown during the Section 1 9-Man football championship game against Lanesboro. The Lions, ranked third in the state, will be facing No. 2 Fertile-Beltrami in the 9-Man state semifinals on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
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Playing inside a nice and cozy domed stadium will suit the Spring Grove passing game just fine. But the Lions have to make sure they don’t get too caught up in their surroundings today.

Spring Grove (12-0), ranked No. 3 in the state, will take on No. 2 Fertile-Beltrami (11-0) in a battle of undefeated opponents in the 9-Man football state semifinals at 1 p.m. in U.S. Bank Stadium.

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The climate-controlled stadium will be a welcome change for teams that have been battling the chilling outdoor conditions the past few games.

“We’re looking forward to playing in the nice warm environment,” Spring Grove coach Kody Moore said. “I think it benefits the passing game and that’s one of the things we’ve really prided ourselves on, being able to throw the ball.”

Spring Grove junior quarterback Elijah Solum has passed for 2,425 yards with 34 touchdowns. He has also rushed for 1,107 yards and 17 TDs.

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“That’s going to help our passing game and it’s going to be fun to play in there,” Solum said of U.S. Bank Stadium.

“I know the boys are really excited to play in the same environment as the Vikings play in,” Moore said. “It’s just a pretty cool experience for the guys.”

With that in mind, Moore hopes the Lions are able to handle their nerves early in the game. Spring Grove last went to the state tournament in 2018, when the Lions won their second straight state title.

Current seniors Ty Cleven and Logan Brumm were eighth-grade reserves on that squad.

“One of the things that we can hopefully do to calm those nerves is if we can start fast and get out to an early lead,” Moore said.

The Lions have a trio of lethal receivers in Tysen Grinde (51 catches, 11 TDs), Caleb Griffin (42 catches, 10 TDs) and Jaxon Strinmoen (26 catches, nine TDs). Hunter Holland has added 1,104 yards rushing with 13 TDs.

Spring Grove and Fertile-Beltrami both average 44 points per game. Spring Grove allows 15.4 points per game while the stingy Falcons defense has allowed a mere 7.6 per contest.

“We want to keep doing what we’ve been doing offensively and take what they give us,” Moore said. “They may be a little smaller up front on the D-line, but they are quick and aggressive. So hopefully we’re able to get the run game going early and take advantage of a little bit of a size advantage.”

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Fertile-Beltrami has a number of players with experience playing at U.S. Bank Stadium as the Falcons reached the championship game a year ago before falling to Section 1 champ LeRoy-Ostrander.

“They’re more of a run-heavy team, but they have a quarterback who can throw it,” Moore said.

The Falcons feature speedy Isaiah Wright, a sophomore running back/receiver with sprinter’s speed. Moore said keeping him in check will be a main priority.

“The biggest thing I think is limiting No. 2 (Wright) and not letting him get space,” Moore said. “He’s a game breaker. If he gets any space at all, he’s the type of kid who can take it to the house at any time.”

Caiden Swenby, a 6-foot-3 junior, is the quarterback for Fertile-Beltrami.

Moore said the Lions need another strong performance from the line, which features Brumm, 275-pound senior Noah Blackburn, 210-pound sophomore Emmett Engeldinger and 220-pound sophomore defensive end/linebacker Ethan Crouch.

The 200-pound Brumm is coming off a big game in the state quarterfinals.

“He came out and took the coaching that we gave him and took it to another level last week,” Moore said. “So that was great to see.”

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The winner will advance to the 9-Man state title game on Dec. 3 at U.S. Bank Stadium.

9-Man state semifinals

Who: No. 3-ranked Spring Grove (12-0) vs. No. Fertile-Beltrami (11-0) .

When/where: Thursday at 1 p.m. at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

Last game: Spring Grove defeated Hancock 40-22 in the state quarterfinals while Fertile-Beltrami topped Ogilvie 22-6.

Up next: The winner advances to the state championship game against either Wheaton/Herman-Norcross (12-0) or Mountain Iron-Buhl (11-0) at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3, at U.S. Bank Stadium.

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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