Mountain Lake Area falls short in 9-man title game

Spring Grove completed a successful title defense following a 40-18 victory over Mountain Lake Area in the Class Nine-Man championship game on Friday, Nov. 23 at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Senior quarterback Alex Folz, Spring Grove’s primary playmaker this season, capped his prep career with one final dazzling display with 263 rushing yards on 30 carries and scored four touchdowns to power the Lions (14-0) to their second championship in four state tournament appearances.

Folz scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter with the combined yardage from those scampers accounting for 142 yards. His first was an 88-yard blast early in the third quarter that gave the Lions a 26-6 lead. Less than two minutes later, the Lions’ lead moved to 32-6 on his 4-yarder.

Mountain Lake Area (12-2) pulled to within 32-18 on back-to-back touchdowns, the second a 51-yard run by senior quarterback Abraham Stoesz with 2:03 left in regulation time. But Folz answered less than a minute later with a 50-yard scoring run up the middle. Folz also threw for 90 yards.

Spring Grove’s victory meant the sixth consecutive season that the Class Nine-Man champion was represented by a team from Section 1. From 2013-2016, Grand Meadow won four Nine-Man crowns in a row.

Junior running back Tyler Kersten chipped in 108 rushing yards for Spring Grove and senior wide receiver Noah Elton had seven receptions for 42 yards. On defense, Elton had eight tackles, a tackle for loss, and an interception.

Stoesz paced Mountain Lake Area with 241 rushing yards on 21 carries. He scored two touchdowns for the Wolverines who were seeking their first state title in three championship game appearances. In 1980, Mountain Lake was the Class C runner-up, and in 2002, it was the runner-up in Class A.

Folz increased Spring Grove’s lead to 26-6 with 9:10 remaining in regulation when he bolted up the middle on a delayed quarterback option. After getting into the defensive secondary, he angled to the left side pylon and completed an 88-yard scoring dash. The play gave him 195 yards rushing on 24 carries to that point.

Spring Grove built a 14-6 halftime lead on the strength of two touchdowns in the first quarter. The Lions took that lead when junior running back Tyler Kersten took a pitchout from Folz and raced through the line and down the right sideline for a 58-yard scoring run with 3:56 left in the first quarter.

Less than four minutes earlier, Mountain Lake had pulled to within 7-6 when junior quarterback Abraham Stoesz scored on a 52-yard run. Moments later, though, the Wolverines couldn’t draw any closer when his pass on the conversion attempt fell short.

Spring Grove opened the scoring on the game’s opening drive, going 68 yards in nine plays. Folz capped the drive on a 7-yard run and then tacked on the extra-point conversion kick.

Kersten led the Lions’ ground game in the first half with 83 yards on six attempts. Folz had 78 yards on 17 carries. In the first half, Folz also completed 8 of 16 passes for 72 yards, but also was intercepted three times.

Stoesz paced the Wolverines in the first half with 96 yards on nine carries. He also completed five passes for 22 yards.