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2022 Class Nine-Man Football State Championship, Mountain Iron-Buhl 28, Spring Grove 25

Posted: Saturday, December 3, 2022 - 1:50 PM

Prep Bowl 2022

During the 2022 football season, the Minnesota State High School League recognized two milestones. In 1972, the first sanctioned and organized high school football playoff system was implemented in Minnesota. For the first 10 years, the championship games were played outdoors. That first decade paved the way for what is now known as the Prep Bowl Era that began in 1982, thus, recognition of 50- and 40-year milestones.

In these historical moments, Mountain Iron-Buhl carved out a piece of its own.

The Rangers stormed back from an early 19-point deficit to defeat Spring Grove 28-25 in the Class Nine-Man championship game on Saturday, Dec. 3 at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mountain Iron won the Class B championship in 1972 and had never earned a berth in a championship game until a half-century later. Junior halfback Damian Tapio scored on a 10-yard run with 25 seconds remaining in regulation time to not only cap a stunning rally, but also capture the first state title during the Prep Bowl Era.

Mountain Iron-Buhl (13-0) put itself into position to finalize a comeback by stopping Spring Grove deep in Rangers’ territory when sophomore Micaden Clines came up with an interception and a return to the Mountain Iron-Buhl 42 with 3:20 remaining in regulation. Spring Grove was attempting to win its third Prep Bowl championship in as many appearances. The Lions won consecutive crowns in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

Earlier in the fourth quarter, Mountain Lake-Buhl was driving for what might have been a go-ahead score, but senior quarterback Asher Zubich was intercepted by Spring Grove junior defensive back Jaxon Strinmoen at the goal line with 6:25 left in regulation time.

Zubich did little else that went awry. He rushed for 127 yards on 25 carries and completed 13 of 24 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns. His 63-yard touchdown connection with senior wideout Riley Busch down the middle of the field put the Rangers into position to make a run at winning. The eight-second drive is believed to be one of the quickest in Prep Bowl history.

Spring Grove extended a narrow halftime lead by taking quick advantage of a Mountain Iron-Buhl fumbled exchange deep in Rangers’ territory. Junior quarterback Elijah Solum recovered the fumble, and then two plays later, bolted 12 yards to give the Lions a 25-14 lead with 6:16 left in the third quarter.

Solum finished with 87 yards rushing and 186 yards passing.

The first half proved to be a series of surges with Spring Grove holding a 19-14 lead at the half.

Spring Grove owned the first quarter in bolting to a 19-0 advantage with three touchdowns. The Lions built a quick 13-0 lead Elijah Solum. He opened the scoring on a 5-yard run with 7:35 left in the first quarter. After a Mountain Iron-Buhl lost fumble, it took the Lions one play to nearly double the lead when Solum connected with senior wide receiver Tysen Grinde for a 43-yard scoring play.

Senior running back Hunter Holland capped the first quarter run with a 14-yard touchdown dash that gave the Lions a 19-point advantage with 1:37 left in the opening quarter.

While Mountain Iron-Buhl’s defense was able to hold Spring Grove scoreless the rest of the first half, the offense found its rhythm with two late scoring strikes. Tapio scored on an 11-yard run and then tacked on the two-point conversion to get the Rangers on the scoreboard. It was a quick, three-play, 33-yard drive that lasted just 52 seconds.

Mountain Iron-Buhl’s scoring drive to close the first half was even quicker, a 6-play, 59-yard journey that took just 46 seconds. With time quickly disappearing from the game clock, Zubich scrambled around long enough to allow senior wide receiver Nik Jesch to break free and be wide open to receive a 20-yard touchdown pass with six seconds left in the half.

In the eventful first half, Solum completed 12 of 20 passes in the first half for 142 yards and a TD. He also rushed for 34 yards. His counterpart, Zubich, completed 8 of 13 passes for 76 yards and rushed for 61 yards in the first half.



2022 9 Man Champ MIB

2022 Class Nine-Man Football State Champions, Mountain Iron-Buhl

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